A squawking voice crackling out of a small black speaker above the chalkboard: That's the way most baby boomers remember starting the day in high or middle school. But for many of their children, the beginning of the school day has recently come to include a different sort of ritual. In a number of schools today, morning announcements are coming to kids the same way their favorite sitcoms do: on a television screen.
"At some schools the impetus for this comes from Channel One," explains one high school principal. Channel One is the in-school commercial TV network beamed to 12,000 middle and high schools in 47 states. In addition to wiring schools to receive its own broadcast, Channel One also provides equipment that can be used to create original shows. About 60 percent of the Channel One schools now rely on that equipment to produce a quick morning TV show that substitutes for announcements done over the public-address system, says Susan Tick, spokeswoman for Channel One.
In most schools students either prepare or help to prepare the TV broadcasts, and according to Ms. Tick, "Some of these kids are wildly, wildly creative. They put on costumes, make interesting use of colors, or run videos behind them" to create a background as they speak. "It's infinitely more interesting than the disembodied voice of some grownup," she says.
But not all schools involved in the trend are Channel One subscribers. At Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, N.J., a group of students comes in early every morning to prepare a 10-minute TV show providing their fellow students with the information they need to get through the day. Principal Dennis Foreman sees the show as a valuable means of building a sense of community within the school. In fact, Mr. Foreman is so insistent that no student will miss the broadcast that between 9:11 and 9:21 when it airs, physical-education classes are cancelled and no hall passes are granted.
The old public-address system, however, has not been dismantled at Oakcrest. Two or three times a week Foreman follows up the TV broadcast with his own announcements - done the old-fashioned way.
But not everyone agrees the reliance on TV is a good thing. "I kind of like the old way," says Faye Santero, the secretary and receptionist at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, Calif., who puts together the announcements that are read in her school by students each morning. "They do the pledge [to the flag] at the same time and then the announcements. It kind of brings their ears to attention and they listen."