The Loudoun County School Board is expected Tuesday to adopt a new policy that makes way for cell phone towers to be erected on school property.
Board members have been working in committee for roughly five years to hammer out a policy that allows companies to request permission to locate a mobile or land-based network facility on land owned by the school system.
Any request for a tower to be built on school property would first have to go through a public hearing process before School Board approval.
During its Oct. 10 meeting, several School Board members pointed out that many people have concerns that cell towers can cause health problems. “I’d love to see that it is away from the school buildings because there are a lot of people who have concerns about the radiation coming from these and its impact on students,” Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said. “We don’t want to expose students to any potential risks.”
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin), who both sit on the Finance and Facilities Committee that has been working on the policy, said that a person is exposed to more radiation from the cell phone in his or her pocket than from a nearby cell tower. Vince Scheivert, assistant superintendent of digital innovation, agreed, and added that a cell phone actually puts out more energy when it is further from a tower.
“You notice when you don’t have cell phone signal, your phone battery drains so much faster? It’s because it’s continually putting out at a maximum rate,” Scheivert said. He later added, “If you’re right next to [cell phone antennas], it’s really bad. But once you’re 9, 10 feet away—how nearly every single tower is—then it drops off to a nominal rate.”
Board members agreed to include a line in the policy that states “the site selection will include health, safety and security considerations.”
The proposed policy also states that the tower must also provide an “identifiable benefit to Loudoun County Public Schools and/or the communities the network facilities will serve.” It also requires the facility to generate revenue for the school system.
Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of support services, told the board that the policy is written fairly generally but specific concerns would be addressed with each application.
“This is just a policy for now and we will adjust the contract vehicle and safety concerns through more committee meetings,” he said.
How much the school system would charge for a tower to be place on its property would also be debated on a case by case basis. According to an NPR report, cell towers on seven schools in Prince George’s County, MD, generated $112,139 in revenue in one year.