April 29th, 2008

Skip iPod: St. Charles Students to get School Bus Music in Trade-Off

By Josh Stockinger
Daily Herald (Illinois)

St. Charles school officials have agreed to play 15 minutes of music and commercials on all District 303 buses each day in exchange for free equipment they say will enhance safety.

Under a five-year contract with Minnesota-based Bus Radio that will start next school year, about 100 buses will be stocked with global positioning systems, digital video recorders and other pricey devices linking drivers to district headquarters.

In return, the district will broadcast a radio program that includes about 10 minutes of “age-appropriate” music, one minute of advertising, a one-minute public service message and a mix of disc jockey banter and song requests.

School board member Jim Gaffney said that while he has reservations about students being subjected to commercials, the agreement equates to safer buses and cost savings for the district.

“I don’t think it’s the perfect situation,” he said. “It’s a system that will fill the need for the time being.”

District 303 operates roughly 90 buses a day and maintains a standby fleet of about 10. Gaffney said the upgrades will help the transportation division keep a closer watch as children are taken to school.

“Probably the main thing is the GPS,” said Gaffney, who is chairman of the board’s business services committee, which recommended signing the contract. “If there’s anything that goes wrong, they can track the bus.”

School officials also cited an independent study by Edison Media Research that found “overall student behavior improved dramatically with the implementation of Bus Radio.” The district said the study showed “noise levels were reduced, students remained in their seats and students’ willingness to follow rules increased.”

Bus Radio advertisements include pitches for CDs, DVDs, children’s television and other products. Samples are available online at http://www.busradio.net.

In addition to the free equipment, St. Charles schools stand to receive $1,500 to $5,000 from Bus Radio over the next five years, depending on the number of listeners and the length of the contract, officials said.

Gaffney added that other regional school systems where Bus Radio has been implemented reported positive results and pointed out that either party can void the deal with 60 days’ notice. “If we decide we don’t like it, we just make a call,” he said.


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