Concord officials are eyeing potential sites for a new cellular tower to fix significant coverage gaps in town — including at Concord-Carlisle High School, where Regional School District Committee Chair Tracey Marano says spotty service is a threat to campus safety.
“We have had issues with school staff, community members, and police and fire around cell communication on our campus,” Marano explained in an email. “We even had a parent write to us about an issue in trying to call 911.”
Superintendent Laurie Hunter said at a recent Joint School Committee meeting that lack of coverage hindered her ability to respond when a school bus got hit by a minivan in May, and that parents have struggled to locate their kids while on campus.
The School Committee is working with Verizon to explore the possibility of siting a cell tower on CCHS land to address the problem, Marano said, although no deal has been made. In the meantime, over the summer, school officials plan to install blue light stations — emergency call boxes often used on college campuses — and to upgrade the school’s Wi-Fi network to improve access both inside and around the building.
“Consistent cell coverage on our campus will help keep our students, staff and community safe,” Marano said.
Deficiencies in cell coverage extend well beyond CCHS’s campus.
Concord Chief Technology Officer Jason Bulger said there is a “triad” of well-covered areas near Emerson Hospital, the Lincoln town line and the Wastewater Treatment Plant, but noted gaps affecting not only CCHS, but downtown Concord and the Walden Pond area.
Bulger and town Risk and Compliance Manager Chris Carmody are working with service providers and radiofrequency consultants to consider possible sites for a new tower, including a landfill at 755 Walden Street, not far from the school
Some Concordians, like Alisha Boyajian, express concern over what they say are the potential health implications of placing a tower at CCHS. Boyajian, for one, hopes the town will consider the landfill site as an alternative.
“We understand and value technology and wireless communication AND we expect our town officials to act in the best interest of our health and well being,” she said in an email to The Concord Bridge.
The American Cancer Society has yet to take an official position on whether radiofrequency radiation from cell phones and towers is a cause of disease: “Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support this idea,” the ACS website says. “Still, more research is needed to be sure.”