The Pine Bush Central School District is considering installing a cell phone tower at Circleville Middle School (CVMS) to improve poor reception inside three buildings in the district.
Superintendent Tim Mains said coverage is unavailable in CVMS, Circleville Elementary School and Pakanasink Elementary School, which presents safety problems.
“We consider it a safety issue for us to have such poor cell phone service on this end of the district,” Mains said.
For example, Mains said an adult-to-adult conflict occurred at a modified basketball game, which prompted the coaches to move the players to the locker rooms. When adults in the audience tried to call 911 to avoid an altercation, they couldn’t make the call because of poor service.
In another recent incident, a staff member collapsed in a hallway at CVMS, but no one could receive service when trying to call from their cell phone. Fortunately, the incident occurred during the day, so staff where able to call 911 using office phones.
Verizon Wireless representative Michael Crosby said a 62-foot antenna would be needed to provide coverage in the three buildings. The existing Scotchtown tower is over capacity.
Buildings such as schools are more difficult to penetrate because of the nature of the construction, so a stronger signal outside the building is needed, Crosby said.
Crosby said despite the close proximity of the tower to students and staff, the signal strength will stay within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-mandated guidelines for what is safe for the general population and occupational workers.
Cell phone towers pose no health risk because the frequencies they omit are much lower than the frequencies needed to cause cell damage. Crosby listed numerous organizations that have come to the same conclusion, such as the FCC, the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration and many more.
“What we’re providing for service does not create adverse health effects,” Crosby said. “So, this is not for children or adults to be concerned with.”
Crosby said Verizon has installed cell service at several other schools, such as schools in Monticello, Utica and Rochester.
“We work on a roughly 45,000 square mile area across upstate New York and portions of Pennsylvania, so it’s common for us to do this sort of installation,” Crosby said. “It’s not out of the ordinary.”
The project would come at no cost to the district because Verizon would be able to collect revenue from providing surface to the surrounding area.
Crosby said in the best case scenario, construction would start later this year to have the tower operational by 2020.