Due to new Federal Communications Commission regulations, the Poway Unified School District has been required to spend a significant amount of money on new radios for the schools.
As of Jan. 1 this year, radio frequencies have changed, requiring "all existing Part 90 radio systems operating in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz bands have until January 1, 2013 to convert... to a maximum bandwidth of 12.5 kHz or to a technology that provides at least one voice path per 12.5 kHz of bandwidth or equivalent efficiency," the FCC website states.
Currently, all licensees must operate in at least 12.5 kHz efficiency and the Commission no longer allows manufacturing or importation of equipment that includes a 25 kHz mode, the site says.
At Monday night's board meeting, Associate Superintendent Malliga Tholandi said that the project to replace the district radios was part of an "emergency" project.
The district says that several school sites are without internal communication capabilities, which is a safety issue during school hours and school activities.
"We came to the board for approval in December so we could contact the vendor to reprogram most of the radios," Tholandi told the board. "We didn't realize there were so many radios in our district—more than 1014."
The associate superintendent said that hundreds of the radios had to be replaced, and since this is a "safety issue," the district had to move fast.
"What we didn't foresee is that some of the radios were obsolete," Tholandi said. "Even though the reprogramming was done, there was so much static or they were hearing third person conversations."
Tholandi said that ones that had to be replaced were ones that had hard use or had been dropped.
"We had to do an emergency purchase. $83,400 was allocated for this," Tholandi said of a December decision to set aside the monies for this impending project.
According to the associate superintendent, the cost has risen to $99,000 but the district has a cushion of $170,000 budgeted for the replacement and reprogramming.
The funds come from the Property Insurance Account from the General Fund.
The board unanimously approved the emergency waiver of Public Contract Code to reprogram and replace radios at several school sites.