- Associated Press - Saturday, March 25, 2017

LINTON, N.D. (AP) - The state’s first high school radio station, KLHS, went live last month in Linton, a town in Emmons County with a population of about 1,300 residents.

The online radio station is the brainchild of a local alternative education program supervisor with 30 years in the radio industry, working in the tri-state region as an on-air announcer and building and owning his own radio station in Langdon, which is still running.

Jay Schmaltz said he brought an idea to two new administrators: to start a radio station owned by the school and operated by students.

This station is not the first in the country. In fact, many high schools in other states have had radio stations dating back to the 1950s.

The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2mtDK5z ) reports that KLHS broadcasts live online Monday through Friday morning from the campus of Linton High School. Four students - all females - are enrolled in the radio journalism class, and they play music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, read the weather and do school announcements.

Schmaltz calls it a work in progress but said he hopes the station will expand to allow the students to write for broadcast and do interviews.

“At some time in the next year, we will be a full-fledged radio station to the point of where we’ll have local news, local sports,” Schmaltz said.

Radio stations are bleak in Linton. The closest stations come out of Bismarck and Mobridge, S.D. KLHS, since going online Feb. 13, has become a sort of defacto community station.

“We’re not being served here,” Schmaltz said. “I feel this can serve a purpose for the public and also for the school. I think this is something that the community needs.”

Schmaltz approached Linton Public School Superintendent Paul Keeney and the high school’s principal, Michael Schirado, with the proposal last summer.

But he said they wondered: Would any high school students even want to get involved? And how could they get school credit?

“I had never heard of it before,” said Schirado, who is in his first year as principal of the school. “It seemed like a really great idea, and it just needed some guidance and push to make it happen.”

Schmaltz said they found out they could make the station a credited course for students through a radio journalism course offered through the North Dakota Continued Distance Education, an accredited virtual school.

They went to the school board and asked for about $3,000 for equipment. Schmaltz, who expected to get about $1,000, said he was surprised when the entire request was granted.

Schmaltz credits the superintendent and Schirado for helping start the station.

“They are very gung-ho, very innovative. They’re looking for that niche that the other schools aren’t doing but that we can provide for our students here,” he said.

Four interested students enrolled in the radio class - Hannah Schumacher, Raanne Schiermeister, Tiffany Smith, and Kailee Horner - and started working at the station, with Schmaltz on the controls.

Each day, the students do their coursework online and switch 30-minute shifts broadcasting online.

The station is online, because it was faster than having to go through sometimes several years’ worth of “hoops to jump through” with the Federal Communications Commission to obtain a radio license. The station also is featured on cable access channel 22 for BEK TV.

The four students work for an hour out of a makeshift studio built by the Linton High School shop class in Schmaltz’s classroom.

“Nothing great, but it will suffice for now,” he said. “We have long-term plans that this will grow.”

The radio station has helped improve the students’ communication skills, Schmaltz said. Smith, a student in the class, agrees.

“You have to slow down a lot (on the radio),” said Smith, a junior at Linton High School.

Smith said she took the class to learn something new. Through the class, she’s learned how to operate radio equipment, stick to a time schedule and read the weather. She plans to continue in the class next school year.

Schmaltz said he hopes the class will expand in the fall with a more permanent studio and production facility. And perhaps - in the near future - it might turn into an over-the-air radio station. An “educational station,” of course, Schmaltz said.

“That’s what it would be, if it was anything. It wouldn’t be commercial; it’d be educational because I want it to stay here. I want it to remain in the school, and I want it to be run by the students,” he said.

“The sky’s the limit. I think we want to approach everything with that kind of a mindset,” said Schirado, adding he hopes the student-run station can collaborate with other classes, such as English and history.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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