Originally Published on ChesaDel Crier on March 25, 2017
In the final weeks of March 1994 the oil crisis brought about due to an oil embargo by OPEC nations was coming to an end, the terracotta Army city of Qin Shin Huang was discovered in China, Cher was at the top of the charts with “Dark Lady”, and “Blazing Saddles was the movie to see. Among all of this, on March 31st, a little student run public radio station at Kent County High School in Worton, MD, WKHS 90.5 FM turned on their transmitter.
Beginning on March 27, 2017 the students at WKHS will begin Flashback 43, a combined retrospective of the past 43 years and a Live Radio Fund Drive to raise money for overdue upgrades. Being classified as a Public Radio station they are not allowed to sell advertising. They have set a goal for the drive at $10,000 although the upgrades are estimated at being over $40,000.
Flashback 43 will begin at 9am and last until 2pm on Monday and at those times the entire week. Each half hour segment beginning with 2017, the students will count back a year playing hits, sound bites, and other tidbits about the year. At noon on Friday March 31st, they will recall the moment of the first broadcast and the first song played, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”.
Chris Singleton is the current Station Manager/Instructor and was a member of the class of ’84. He began his involvement with the station in 1983 when as a student of the Electronics Program was asked to repair a piece of equipment. In 1989 he came on as the station engineer, a role he has held since. In 2007 he took on the dual role of Station Engineer and Station Manager/Instructor.
Alumni of the program will still recognize the station. The studios were originally constructed in 1973-74. In 1987, the on air studio had furniture and audio console replacement. This studio console was replaced again in 2002 and is once again near its life expectancy. In 1995, the main Production studio had console and furniture replacement and in 2007, the other remaining two production studios had their consoles and furniture updated.
Wall acoustic treatment has consisted of several generations of foam panel replacements. The material disintegrates over time and the students, being students, “pick” at the material creating additional holes. Part of the project is to have this material removed, drywall installed over the original wall panels. Acoustic treatment will be accomplished with fabric based panels.
The On Air studio is small with equipment racks taking a great deal of space. Any On Air guests are located in the adjacent News studio. Moving these racks along with new furniture and audio consoles allow students and guests to be in the On Air studio together for interview segments currently there are a few that occue on a weekly basis. With this redesign the newsroom can be transformed into an independently operated studio. The proposal includes a small broadcast audio console and additional microphones for this purpose.
The radio station should be on their own independent HVAC system since the station is in operation year-round and into the night with community volunteers who do radio shows in the evenings. These shows are “labors of love” that consist of many different genre of music. Being on an independant HVAC system will allow the station to have a more constant ambient temperature, which is important in maintaining the useful life of the equipment.
Although the station has done some fundraising in the past, they went to businesses three years ago to offer sponsorship’s for the 40th anniversary show, this is the first time that they have held a TeleThon. They are asking people to pledge donations to the station during the week by calling 778-4249 or 410 778-8100 during the day. There is also a Donate Now button on their Web site WKHSRadio.org. The station has partnered with Chesapeake Charities to process the donation, which are tax deductible.
Pior members of the radio station program have gone on to have careers in broadcasting include, Walter Barcus, News Room Manager at WRDE, Delmarva’s local NBC network affiliate. He was one of the first to work at the station as a sophomore when it came on the air in 1974. He was also one of the Station Manager/Instructors, 1984-86.
Fred Willard, class of ’80, who is now in the TV broadcast industry, says it was working at the station during its early years that lead him to his broadcast career.
Camri McKee, a recent KCHS graduate who was in the program, says “My experience at WKHS was a fun adventure! The radio program allowed me to explore my creativity and drag me into my lifelong career. The program gave me an opportunity not many students can get anywhere else at a young age. When days were tough, being in a production room creating promos and PSA’s with classmates made everything better.” Currently she is working as a News Operation Technician at WBAL TV in Baltimore and offers “If it wasn’t for 90.5 WKHS I wouldn’t be where I happily am today.”
WKHS Program Director Chris Singleton with KCHS Principal Tracey Williams at the 41st Anniversary Show.
Current Kent County Principal Tracey Williams was also in the program. She said, “When I was a student in high school, I was shy. I wasn’t outspoken. Joining the FM broadcasting program helped me learn to speak confidently (even when I didn’t feel confident), to speak more clearly, to speak in front of a crowd, and to work together with other students as part of a team to create original work. (i.e. Public Service Announcements).”
She added, “There are two significant differences in the program since I was in high school. First, students have the freedom to create their own shows/programs. I’m so impressed with the Socially Speaking segment based on topics that teens face regularly. Secondly, the partnerships formed with organizations such as Johns Hopkins University and the Kent County Health Department that allow our students to produce and perform industry standard work.”
About WKHS 90.5 FM
Founded by the Kent County Public School System in 1974, WKHS is one of the most powerful high school stations in the country. At 17,500 watts with flat terrain all around, our signal can be heard for up to 60 miles in any direction. In a time when many educational stations are being scuttled to divert funding elsewhere, we are proud to continue to inform and entertain our listening audience, while training the broadcasters of tomorrow.