Letter to the Editor: Cheaper communication for buses is available


Recently the Shenandoah County School Board announced it wants to upgrade the communication equipment in its school buses at a cost of $294,898.  I know a thing or two about two-way communication systems and their costs and limits.  The cost and solution mentioned above by Superintendent Jeremy Raley are a fantasy.

Communication systems such as the type Mr. Raley proposes to use are antiquated.  They have “dead zones”  similar to a wireless smart phone.  You are also at the mercy of Verizon or Shentel.  During a snowstorm or rainstorm — and sometimes even after a storm — the PL lines  [private lines] become flooded and do not work properly.   Nextel would not be a good solution either.  Having multiple people being able to talk to each other at the same time would create confusion during an emergency, when calm is most needed.

Assuming that the schools propose to use a 900 mhz frequency, there is also the potential problem of “bleeding” — allowing you to hear all communications on that other channel and allowing the other user to hear your communications as well.  This is especially true from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  In case of emergency on a particular bus, do you really want to have a radio station from Rockingham or Augusta broadcasting over your channel while a bus driver is trying to deal with an emergency with a student? And while there is a 1200 mhz frequency, it does not broadcast as well as the 900 mhz frequency over longer distances.  Assuming there is a problem with a bus in the New Market area — you might have a coverage issue.  You really want to spend $294,898 on a system which won’t give you 100 percent coverage?

I know several people in the two-way communication business, and they tell me they could equip 100-110 school buses for under $150,000.  The School Board would be better off if it invested in T-Mobile texting phones, which are considerably less expensive, have a better range, are more reliable, and probably more durable.

John Massoud, Strasburg