Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Students shine in broadcast booth...

Posted 10/31/17 (Tue)

There’s an interesting phenomenon taking place in Linton High School these days and it doesn’t have anything to do with wrestling or football.

It has the only bona fide high school radio station operating in North Dakota and it’s part of a radio broadcasting class.

It is currently the second semester this station has been in operation as it started in January with four students.

By the time the fall 2017 semester rolled around, the enrollment ballooned to 14 and students from last year were taking Broadcasting II and the newbies were enrolled in Broadcasting I.

The idea is the brainchild of Jay Schmaltz, a native of Nekoma who is now teaching in Linton.

He’s had a strong background in radio that spans at least three decades that I’m aware of and now he is putting that experience to good use in a venue that quite frankly, nobody could have imagined two years ago.

And now, these students are broadcasting across the Internet on a daily basis and because of the great departure from normal high school classes, this group continues getting nationwide media coverage.

What’s unique about what Jay has done is he is an adviser and the students “own” the radio station and they see to it that all systems are go, they fill time slots, they provide local news and weather updates, they spin records, or CDs nowadays, and clean the dust bunnies out of the studio.

It’s their radio station. It’s part of their homework and an awesome learning process. More importantly, these kids are having a lot of fun and learning something relevant at the same time.

It’s a win win for the administration and school board and when Jay took his idea to the principal, he shook his head a couple of times, said the idea had merit and took it to the school board.

Apparently, it was such a unique idea that nobody dissented and Jay began having talks with the shop teacher to have his students build a radio studio in the school building.

And the way Jay describes it, things started happening rapidly from that point and the next thing he knew, he and the “fab 4” as he calls his original students, were ready to go live.

In a way, KLHS is like Marconi’s first radio broadcast across the Atlantic Ocean. It started out small and continued growing.

At first, KLHS was broadcasting live for about an hour a day, with the rest of the day filled with music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

And, as the fall 2017 semester comes to a close in Linton High School, the entire morning, from 7:30 to noon, is filled with radio personalities and Jay could very well be filling afternoon “air time” as more students are knocking on the door to get into this unique program.

When you talk about a flagship radio station, these guys are it. There may have been others who have tried and failed, but this group of 14 collectively called KLHS, is setting the standard for high school broadcasting and is perhaps outperforming some collegiate programs.

And that’s really what this is about. The bottom line of KLHS isn’t about money, at least not directly, and it’s not about popularity on the radio dial.

This all hinges on how the students perform; what are their grades, do they conduct themselves professionally, do they continue to try to improve, are they good ambassadors for their school and the community of Linton? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

You can be pretty sure if this was a romper room, the school board would not have funded it for a second semester because the Linton district isn’t swimming in money. The board has a lot to deal with rather than funding something that isn’t going to get off the ground.

But apparently it has and KLHS is now soaring to new heights with its expanded programming. 

And Jay Schmaltz couldn’t be happier. This was an experiment and with any experiment there is risk and he knew that from the get go.

But he forged ahead with his plan, implemented it and now everybody from KFGO in Fargo to the Washington Times are talking about this high school radio station in small-town North Dakota.

It just goes to show you what can happen when you have a good idea like Jay did when he was sitting at his kitchen table telling his wife Lanette about it.

And you thought shop was “coolest” class. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for high school students.