by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Estacada High School Vice Principal Ryan Carpenter sports a radio with a secret-service style earpiece as he ribs Senior Cadance Anderson.The Estacada School District is planning to overhaul its communication system.

During its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12, the Estacada School Board approved $55,913 for new radios for the district’s buses and administrators through Day Wireless Systems.

For the last few weeks in the high school, Vice Principal Ryan Carpenter, Principal Scott Sullivan and Secretary Denise Pemberton have been testing the new hand-held radios.

Carpenter explained that in the past, when there has been an emergency, law enforcement communicated with the district’s Central Office, which would then communicate the situation with school staff via cell phone.

This system had some hiccups.

Various staff would have to pause important duties to attend their cell phones.

Secretaries would have to get off of the phone with parents to answer the principals in person or on their cell phones, for example.

Carpenter said the new radio system would allow for simultaneous confidential communication between the district’s administrators and Central Office.

“I’m a big proponent for it because it’s going to make us safer in the long run,” Carpenter said.

Another added bonus, according to Carpenter, is “Kids think that we’re now in the Secret Service.”

The funds also will be used to purchase new radios for the district’s bus fleet.

At the board meeting, Estacada School District Operations Manager Gary Lewis said of the current sytem, “If we have a major situation on a bus, we don’t have the ability to just talk to that specific bus.”

Under the current system, students can overhear information about situations on other buses.

The new radios will allow bus-to-bus or base-to-bus communication.

Lewis said the new radios will be installed on the district buses this spring after licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have been obtained.

In the summer, selected buses will have extended service installed.

Lewis said the district can’t communicate with buses that go to places such as Madras or the Oregon Coast with the current radio system.

The new radios with extended service would allow for communication over greater distances.

The district will be reimbursed 70 percent of the cost for the radios used in the transportation system.

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