Signs of the times?

Seymour Community School Corp. is studying options to replace existing outdoor message board signs with electronic signs at all of its school buildings.

Costs for such signs vary depending on size and capabilities, but are typically expensive, ranging from $15,000 to $36,000 each.

At the December school board meeting, a request was made from Margaret R. Brown Elementary School to purchase an LED sign that would allow staff to change the sign’s messages from a computer inside the school or remotely if needed. Schools in the corporation currently use signs that require someone to change out the letters manually.

The sign would be used to share important messages from the school and community, dates of events and special announcements such as birthdays and students of the month.

Tony Hack, principal of Brown, said the sign would display messages in both English and Spanish to provide the school with a better tool to communicate with all students, parents, staff and the community.

Not only are the signs more noticeable and effective in relaying information, but they also are safer to use instead of having a staff member or student outside changing them, said Dave Stark, director of facilities and grounds.

Stark said he expected the sign for Brown to cost between $15,000 and $17,000, which could be paid for through construction funds being used to renovate interior space in the building.

The decision was put on hold at the January meeting when Superintendent Rob Hooker said he and Stark planned to look at options, projected costs and timelines for purchasing the signs for all eight school buildings.

“Several of our schools’ signs are outdated and will need to be replaced sometime in the near future,” Hooker said. “Principals have expressed interest in purchasing electronic signage.”

The city currently has restrictions on electronic signs in residential neighborhoods and also regulates the size, brightness and animation used for signs.

Hooker said the schools would have to work with the city’s zoning department to make sure any new signs would meet the city code.

Because of the expense, he said the school board needs to have enough information and options to discuss before making a decision.

“These types of signs are hyper-expensive, and I would not want to do more than one sign per year or so due to the costs,” he said.

If approved, the signs likely would be funded through capital projects money and could be included in future construction projects at the schools.

Hooker said he doesn’t feel it’s fair to ask PTO groups to fund the signs, because one school may not have as much PTO money available or may want to use that money for something else.

There is some possibility the school could get a community sponsor to help pay for the sign, but that also would have to be approved by the school board first and could not be a business or group that could cause the corporation legal problems, Hooker said.

No decision on whether to purchase the signs is expected anytime soon, he added.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.