Cell antenna plan bafflingly gets poor reception

By Glenn Borok

In an era of financial uncertainty, everyone from individuals to international corporations are cutting back on their spending. However, one important area that’s at the receiving end of some of the most devastating cuts is education. Schools across the nation are facing slashed budgets and less federal money. That’s why I was amazed to read a story in this paper last week that the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board had rejected a proposal from the San Dieguito Union High School District to install cell antennas on the roof of Canyon Crest Academy. This proposal would have given the school greater cell reception and technological capabilities, while also generating revenue.

The plan, known as Sprint Together with Nextel, Canyon Crest Academy SD75XC061, calls for three sets of four panel antennas facing out from the rooftops in different directions at separate locations on the school’s “F” and “G” buildings. The antennas will be blocked by a parapet so as not to be seen by anyone on campus.

Despite the fact that these antennas will be concealed and kept away from students and faculty, the planning board rejected the proposal based on its location and the lack of notification given to CCA parents. While I have no qualms with the planning board on its charge that the school did not properly inform the parents and teachers (the district did hold a poorly advertised community meeting about the proposal as required by the planning board), I believe that if the district suitably notifies the public there should be no further reservations about the installation.

That leads me to the planning board’s main problem with this installation. At the meeting, board members spoke out about the potential health issues associated with antennas being in such close proximity to the students on a daily basis. Besides the fact that the antennas will be hidden behind a wall on the roof, far away from any classrooms, the possibility of harmful radiation from these antennas is a proven myth.

In Pulse Magazine, Dr. William G. Bradley Jr., professor and chairman of the department of radiology at UCSD, stated, “There are no known health effects of cellular towers. If there were, they wouldn’t be allowed.” Also, by allowing the installation it can be reasonably inferred that the school district, which presumably did its due diligence when accepting this project, also found no medical reason not to allow this project on campus. According to 10News, groups such as The Federal Communications Commission and American Cancer Society have also said that cell towers are safe. Also, according to wireless firm Antenna Search, the school already has approximately 40 towers and 100 antennas within four miles of the school. In addition to that, according to the EMR policy institute, federal law currently prohibits state and local agencies from basing tower/antenna construction permits on the harmful environmental effects of radiofrequency radiation emissions to the extent that facilities comply with the Federal Communication Commission’s regulations. [47 USC Sec. 332( c)(7)(iv)]. The courts have ruled that this applies to human health and, in this case, the cell antennas do comply with current FCC regulations and it is therefore illegal to reject the proposal based on health reasons.

In addition to our district approving of this project, districts nationwide have installed cell antennas on their campuses. One planning board member stated at the meeting, “We’ve never had a cell tower this close to kids at a school,” which is incorrect. Schools from Florida to Oregon are receiving checks of hundreds of thousands of dollars for implanting antennas all over their campuses. In fact, in August 2010, Poway High School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to install AT&T cell antennas on the football stadium at Del Norte High School for a cool $382,000 a year, according to 10News. PUSD Superintendent John Collins stating, “Research and governmental studies do not support the claim that cell towers present a health issue to students.” PUSD currently leases cell towers to cell companies at seven of their schools, including four high schools.

In addition, the CV planning board suggested that Sprint should look elsewhere for a place to put their antennas. However, they decided that the only location with a high enough roof and ample space was the CCA campus.

The culmination of all this evidence leads me to wonder why the CV planning board simply didn’t acquiesce to the proposal of the school district and instead blocked a plan that could have improved technology at and provided money for one of the nation’s finest high schools.

Glenn Borok will be a senior at Canyon Crest Academy this fall. He is

co-editor in chief of Pulse Magazine, the official magazine of Canyon Crest Academy, and an intern at this newspaper.