What a commotion over a simple question about whether students at New Bedford's Keith Middle School are allowed to bring a bottle of water to school during a heat wave.

Parents contacted the radio station looking for help after being given conflicting answers by school officials. Some said it was okay, while others said it was not. Still others said water bottles were permitted, but only if accompanied by a doctor's note. We tried getting answers and got the same result. Several calls over two days were made to Principal Joshua Almeida, but as of this writing, have not been returned.

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Why so much confusion over such a simple question? School Department spokesman Arthur Motta tells me bottled water is generally permitted in some areas, but discouraged in others where sensitive equipment such as computers are being used. Makes sense.

But will a student have a water bottle confiscated in class? How about in the halls?

Why was there no official information provided to students and parents from the get-go, and why can't we seem to get a straight answer? Granted, this is not the most serious crisis facing our school system, but it might as well be.

Heck, Mayor Jon Mitchell, who chairs the School Committee, found the whole discussion to be much ado about nothing. We disagree. School officials need to be clear about department policies so there is no room for confusion.

We ask parents to be engaged in their children's educational experience, but when they have a very simple question about a very simple matter that should have easily been answered, they get the runaround.

School officials should have anticipated such questions, and those who answer the phones for the public schools should have been armed with a clearly articulated policy on the matter.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.