FAIRFIELD – Maharishi School students can enjoy great tasting water thanks to a gift from Iowa State Bank.
The bank sponsored the installation of a new water purification system for the school, which was installed in mid-November 2019. The donation covered new spigots on the sinks in the students’ classrooms, and a new drinking fountain complete with a water bottle filling station.
The water bottle filling station is on the third floor of the Hopson Building, the newer of the two buildings that comprise Maharishi School (the other one being Foster, north and west of Hopson). It was installed on the third floor because that is where many of the upper school students have class, and they figure to use it the most. The fountain has an electronic counter on it showing how many plastic water bottles it has saved, with 20 ounces of liquid counting as one water bottle. As of the morning of Nov. 19, the water bottle filling station had saved 83 plastic bottles in just one week of operation.
Iowa State Bank president and CEO Aaron Kness gives all the credit for this project to Jamie Winter, the bank’s marketing manager and who is also a personal banker. Winter said Iowa State Bank regularly donates to projects in the public schools, and she noticed it had not done one recently with Maharishi School, the private school in Fairfield.
Kness commented, “Jamie and I both feel Maharishi School is a vital part of the community, and we had not partnered with them in some time. We reached out to see if they needed anything, to help them and show appreciation for what they bring to the community.”
The school’s administration prepared a list of projects it wanted to work on. Winter said the bank chose to fund the water purification system because that stood out as particularly important.
“The school needed new water filters and hardware for classrooms, and a drinking fountain,” Winter said. “They wanted the safest water for their children. The current system was outdated, so we installed a new descaler and conditioner system [to reduce effects of hard water]. It extends the life of the purification system and protects the plumbing and fixtures.”
Iowa State Bank paid for the entire project, donating about $3,200. Winter said the school is “such an asset for Fairfield. In addition to high quality education, it also brings diversity and environmental awareness.”
Kness said sponsoring the water purification system is in line with the bank’s core values such as promoting wellness. For instance, it was the first bank in town to be Blue Zones certified, and it offers its employees a gym membership.
“This system will give students and faculty healthy, clean water for a long time to come,” Kness said.
Laura Bordow, the school’s development director, and Ellen Jones of the school’s board of directors, met with Kness to discuss the project.
“He’s such a man of service and giving back to the community,” Bordow said of Kness. “We talked about how our school affects the community and brings in more jobs. It was a meaningful discussion, and I saw his deep commitment. That touched me even more than the donation.”
Bordow mentioned that the water bottle filling station was added to the proposal later. Bordow had seen a similar water bottle station at Fairfield Middle School, and thought it would be great for Maharishi School to have one, too. Kness reached out to Bordow to say the bank would be willing to cover the cost of the water bottle station, too.
Tom Gordon, who leads a maker-space class in the school, installed the water system. He said the new system can accommodate more water, and it will work better with new filters.
The new filters are a different style from the old ones. The old filters were granular activated carbon (GAC), whereas the new ones are catalytic activated carbon (CAC). Catalytic carbon filters are specifically designed to treat chloramines (chlorine combined with a small amount of ammonia). Chloramines eat away at GAC filters, which over time, can lose their ability to purify water.
One advantage of the new filters is that they are much easier to change. Gordon said that, even with 50 years of experience, changing one of the old filters wasn’t an easy task. But the new filters simply require a one-quarter turn and pop, they’re out. A machine even alerts users with a beeping sound when it’s time to change the filter.
Gordon said the new water system is not reverse osmosis. He understands some people swear by reverse osmosis water, whereas other people believe that it removes too many minerals from the water including healthy ones such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. In any event, Gordon said that the school couldn’t install a reverse osmosis system because an RO system would not deliver enough pressure to power all of the fountains and sinks in such a large building.
Background on school
Maharishi School, formerly known as Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment or by its abbreviation MSAE, was founded in 1974, the same year that Maharishi International University moved its campus to Fairfield. The school received state accreditation in 1986. In the 1970s and 1980s, the students used the Foster Building, one the school inherited from Parsons College. In the mid-1980s, enrollment began to increase and the administrators knew that Foster couldn’t hold all the students.
The community got to work building the Hopson building, which is now the school’s main building. Bordow remembers how everyone pitched in the summer of 1989 to finish the building.
“People were here painting base boards the night before the school opened,” she said.