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Pupils air voices on Sutton radio station [Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. :: ]
[March 23, 2014]

Pupils air voices on Sutton radio station [Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. :: ]

(Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 23--Owensboro's Sutton Elementary School has something few grade schools have.

Its own radio station.

But most people will never get a chance to hear the broadcasts on FM 101.1 The signal is limited to a five- or six-block radius around the school at 2060 Lewis Lane.

"We almost reach Griffith Avenue, Lewis Lane Baptist Church and the HealthPark," Tonja Rankins, the school's technology coordinator, said last week.

But that's OK.

The station's target audience is moms and dads who are waiting in line on Lewis Lane to drop off or pick up their children.

The broadcasts are only aired from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on school days.

It gives the parents a chance to catch up with what's happening at the school while they're stuck in traffic, Rankins said.

"It really sounds impressive on car radios," she said.

Sutton's Student Technology Leadership Project is in charge of the broadcasts.

Members include Kaeli Colbert, Isaac Houtchen, Logan Lanham, Conner Rhoads, Claire Roush, Aubrey Self, Elliot Tines and Jakob Wellman.

On Wednesday afternoon, Colbert and Lanham were busy recording the next morning's broadcast.

The two fourth-graders alternated at the microphone.

She announced birthdays.

He announced the lunch menu.

She announced school picture day.

And he announced the Owensboro Public Schools' Fine Arts Festival.

"They alternate so the voices don't become monotonous." Rankins said.

"They give up their recess to do this," she said of the recording of announcements. "We've had a broken year of instruction because of all the snow days. But we're making a lot of progress." Ultimately, Rankins said, she hopes to be able to add background music to the announcements.

Julie Ellis, the school system's public information officer, said the idea for the station came when fourth-grade teacher Gina Davis and curriculum coordinator Jamie Self heard about another school using its own station to keep parents informed.

The two began looking into the possibility of getting funding for a station at Sutton.

The website lists 130 radio stations at elementary and secondary schools across the country.

But most are at high schools.

There are no other radio stations at schools in either the Owensboro or Daviess County systems.

"We promote other things in the school district as well as those at Sutton," Rankins said.

Sutton received a $400 grant in 2012 from the OPS Foundation for Excellence to buy an FM transmitter.

The school's PTO helped add an antenna on the school roof to boost transmission to the neighborhood, Ellis said.

The station signed on around the beginning of the year.

Rankins said the announcements are broadcast in a continuous loop during the hours the station is on the air.

Because it is a low-power station, it does not have to have a license, she said.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, ___ (c)2014 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.) Visit the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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