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Cola wars reach schools

May 23, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Coca-Cola versus Pepsi war has hit Smithsburg High School, with both companies offering money and other incentives to become the sole provider of soft drinks in the 760-student school.

Washington County Board of Education member Roxanne Ober expressed concern Wednesday about whether it would be a good move to advertise on school property.

"This is commercialization, and we're using our youngest consumers to do that," Ober said. "We're in the business of educating them."

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The School Board is in the process of considering whether it will allow the exclusive use of one company in the school, and if so, which one offers the better deal.

School Principal Jeffrey Stouffer said the school will benefit financially by exclusively selling the products of one company.

"That racks up some money real quick," Stouffer said. "They get something out of it and we get something out of it. It's a win-win."

Stouffer said he didn't think commercial advertising in the school would be a problem because there already are vending machines that offer a variety of products.

He said the companies would sell drinks, such as water and juice, in addition to soda.

"People are going to buy what they want," he said. "And if they don't like it, they don't have to buy it."

Stouffer said he asked the School Board to consider entering into a contract with one of the companies to bring additional funding to the schools.

The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. gave the school 10 incentives to contract with the company, including $1,200 a year to use however the school wishes. In addition, Coke proposed:

- Buying one 7-foot-by-8-foot or two 4-foot- by-8-foot basketball scoreboards.

- Giving an additional $500 at the end of the contract if the school meets Coke's volume projections.

- Providing menu boards and clocks for concession stands.

- Providing Coca-Cola scholarships

- Providing Scholarship 101, which is a software package that helps students find and apply for $1 billion in college scholarships

- Providing Powerade sports kits for the school's athletic teams.

- Providing student awards and certificates, as well as programs that recognize teachers.

- Participating in up to three fund-raising events a year.

Pepsi Bottling Group proposed giving the school $1,500 a year in return for a six-year contract. Pepsi said it also would spend $8,000 on a scoreboard for the gym.

Pepsi says the school would receive $22,700, including the money for the scoreboard, during the first year of the contract, and a total of $99,200 over the six-year period.

Stouffer said contracting with one company may become more popular among schools because of the financial benefits and incentives.

"I think more and more schools are going to have to do this," Stouffer said. "If there's money that could be realized, why would people not do that?"

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