Wake Ed

Wake County may allow more cellphone towers at schools

A cell-phone tower, disguised as a tree, is on the grounds of J.M. Robinson Middle School in Charlotte near an athletic field.
A cell-phone tower, disguised as a tree, is on the grounds of J.M. Robinson Middle School in Charlotte near an athletic field. THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

In an age of tight school budgets, the Wake County school system may try to generate extra cash by renting more school space for use as cellphone towers.

The agenda for Wednesday’s school board facilities committee meeting includes a presentation on how Wake could generate an additional $5.5 million from communications companies over the next decade if more towers are allowed to be placed at schools. Wake now gets $187,792 a year in rent from cellphone tower leases at Sanderson and Wakefield high schools and Daniels Middle School.

School administrators want to know if the school board will support issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) “to select a suitable consultant to assist in development, marketing and management of the board’s communications leases.”

School districts around the country have been leasing more space for cell towers to keep up with the growing demand for wireless services. But the increase has also seen opposition from some who say that exposure to microwave radiation from the towers could have harmful health effects.

For instance, the National Association For Children and Safe Technology has resources to help parents fight the placement of cell towers in close proximity to schools and playgrounds.

But the American Cancer Society says that “most researchers and regulatory authorities do not believe that cell phone towers pose health risks under ordinary conditions.”

One element of Wake’s RFQ would be to “undertake diligent and reasonable efforts to ensure safety of employees, students and the public from any and all potential harmful or otherwise negative effects of any device installed and operated on Board property.”

Also on Wednesday’s facilities committee agenda:

▪ Reviewing the schematic design for the replacement of Stough Elementary School’s aging campus in Raleigh with a new building;

▪ Reviewing staff’s recommendation to use North Wake College & Career Academy as the name of the new career and technical education high school that is scheduled to open in Wake Forest in 2017.

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