Celling out?

Is Sacramento City Unified School District compromising its students’ health for a measly $1,000 a month? That’s what some parents believe.

The district, perhaps unintentionally or perhaps deliberately, signed what has become a very controversial contract with Sprint PCS Wireless to allow installation of cell phone towers on top of a classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Greenhaven.

Part of the controversy lies in a recent California Department of Health Services study that found a possible link between electro-magnetic fields emitted from cellular use and ailments such as miscarriages, childhood leukemia and adult brain cancer.

Nonetheless, the district approved the contract without any public notification or scrutiny, something that rankled parents when they caught wind of the impending project.

One parent, Stephen Jenkins, opposed the project even though he used to be a zoning contractor who was involved in the siting of 45 Sprint towers. With the potential risk to children at the school, Jenkins said he would have never approved such a project.

“Sprint saying the antennae are safe is like the fox telling the chickens that it is safe to come out of the hen house,” Jenkins said. And Sprint representatives told SN&R that the towers are safe, relying on the fact that the studies completed so far on the issue are inconclusive.

Yet the anger over the Sprint tower was compounded by the fact that 12 Airtouch Cellular towers already exist on the same building that Sprint’s towers will occupy, surrounded by a chain-link fence and a sign that reads, “CAUTION … this site may exceed FCC rules for Public Exposure.”

According to parents at Kennedy, nobody, including the teachers, knew these towers existed until months after installation. Several calls to the district were not returned by press time.

Construction on the latest tower was scheduled to occur during Kennedy’s summer vacation. Parents demanded a community forum which has delayed construction, but it may be too little too late.

In a meeting on July 11, parents pleaded with Sprint to consider another location. Sprint states that it will focus on industrial and commercial zones first. However, the cellular provider is sticking to the fact that they have a legal lease with the district, and Kennedy is the optimal location for them.

Sacramento is the only district in the area to allow cell towers on classrooms. Other schools have them on athletic fields where exposure is farther away. Elk Grove Unified School District doesn’t allow them anywhere on campus because of the potential health risks.

Kennedy’s parents want to make sure that this type of thing doesn’t happen to other schools in the district. Sam Brannan Middle School and Marian Anderson Elementary are currently being targeted for cell tower locations, and as of August 16, the school community and surrounding area had not been notified.

Says Jenkins: “Anyone who says cellular antennae are safe doesn’t understand the inconclusive nature of research studies on the potential health effects of electro-magnetic exposure to school-age children.”