- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - By the beginning of next school year, Clark County students might accompany daily commuters by way of the airwaves.

Greater Clark County Schools plans to open radio stations at Charlestown and Jeffersonville high schools, with the possibility of a satellite station at New Washington High School that can push recorded content to either of the other two.

At the board’s Dec. 16 meeting, it approved the purchase of about $100,000 of radio equipment at Jeffersonville High School. Andrew Melin, superintendent, said the program will be well-rounded.

“Between cable TV, radio and the Internet, we can have a comprehensive programming for all of our kids,” Melin told the News and Tribune (https://bit.ly/1BcVDor ). “We’re investing in these programs, but there’s a little return on those programs because the state provides some funding support for each student that’s in the program.”

He said in the second meeting of January, the administration will likely present information on what facilities are needed at Charlestown and Jeffersonville, along with estimated costs.

Tim Dench, radio and television teacher at Jeffersonville High School, is coordinating the effort to get the radio stations started. From Federal Communications Commission approval onward, he’s helped organize what needs to happen to get the stations up and running.

He said if the FCC approves stations for both schools, Greater Clark could be one of the only school districts in the state, if not the country, with more than one independent radio station.

He said that’s important for the county because it covers so much ground and the communities within have their own identities, which he wants reflected in their programming.

“In Jeff, Charlestown and New Washington, we’re making a concerted effort to make sure everyone’s treated fairly,” Dench said. “We want to include everyone. But the communities will actually be able to listen to their own radio stations and hear things that matter to them. They won’t have to listen to other community’s sports and other events.”

Each station will have its own call letters and frequency. In Jeffersonville, they’ll begin by piggybacking off what they can already broadcast on television, putting a student on screen and introducing music before it airs.

He said they should have about a 7.5 mile radius initially with the possibility to expand.

In July, the board approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Charlestown to share the radio frequency.

Melin said the district won’t have to build onto either high school to house the stations, though Charlestown will need a radio tower.

But Dench said while the goal is to make the stations self-sustaining through sponsorships from local companies and other entities, the startup will only be limited by funding.

“The only restriction is money,” Dench said. “We’ve got students lined up and people involved ready to go tomorrow. It’s simply a matter of money and it’s a matter for everything. We don’t want to overload the system and take away from any other program.”

Melin said because of the career and technical education associated with running the stations, it could help bring in more funding to the district, as they get such funding from the state for other programs.

Falen Bonsett co-hosts a morning show out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the “Dave Ryan in the Morning Show.” She graduated from New Washington High School in 2002 and didn’t get radio experience until after she started college.

She said she didn’t hear about the radio stations until she was contacted for an interview and she’s glad to hear her alma mater will offer a program that promotes the business she’s built a career on.

“It was shocking (when I got the news) that I was so happy they’d done this and it was shocking that they hadn’t done this sooner,” Bonsett said. “I think it’s amazing, it’s so great to have different entertainment outlets and creative outlets for people. I think it’s really great that they’re doing that.”

Melin said while he was in college, his experience in radio served him well throughout his career in education. He said whether students go into radio professionally or not, it could be a huge benefit to them.

“A big reason for me being where I am today in my professional career is the great experiences I had in radio,” Melin said. “In particular, starting in high school. It gave me the ability to be hired at a professional level.”

Dench said a radio station for each of the communities in Clark County will make a big difference in those towns, but also for the students broadcasting to them.

“It’s something that’s brand new,” Dench said. “It’s something that is real life. You put kids in front of a computer, a radio station or TV station, you’ve got them. Almost every day, they can’t wait. They’re giving something new to these communities that they haven’t had before, and that’s great.”

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

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