Toksook Bay Principal Michael Robbins talks about how the community is using their low-power radio station to stay informed and connected through the pandemic.
Katie Basile: Can you describe your radio station? How do you use it?
Michael Robbins: In Toksook Bay, we are using a 10W radio that goes out on 91.9 FM. This is a way to get the information out, not only to our staff and students, but to everyone who lives in Toksook Bay. This radio station has created many different opportunities for the school and for the greater Toksook Bay community .
Basile: How has the school used the radio station to stay connected during the pandemic specifically?
Robbins: As the pandemic has progressed, there has been a greater need and desire to stay informed, both with local and statewide news. This radio station has allowed for that by bringing KYUK news and state news to Toksook Bay. It has also become a great tool for the school. It is a free opportunity to communicate with the students and their families that doesn’t require much effort or an internet connection. We were also able to get a grant that allowed the school to buy a radio for each household, really making sure that everyone in the community is connected.
Basile: How many radios did you have to buy and how much did they cost?
Robbins: We were able to buy 120 radios, going out to each household in Toksook Bay, which came out around $1,000. Including the cost of the equipment to get the radio broadcast set up, everything came out to around $1,500. For $1,500 we were able to connect everyone in the village.
Basile: How much work has it been producing programming?
Robbins: We have two interns who are creating content. We have an interview series where we interview members of the community who are doing interesting projects. We’ve created a cross curriculum that has encouraged students to get involved in the process, and it has been a very good thing.
Basile: How have been involved in radio production?
Robbins: Through an internship with LKSD and KYUK we have been able to get students involved in the content that is being produced for radio and Facebook. We currently have two interns, Payton and Ethan.
Basile: Can you briefly talk about how you are blending Facebook Live and radio?
Robbins: Using Facebook Live acts like an archive for the stories and the content we are producing. People are able to listen in real time and then go back and listen again because it is preserved on Facebook. This archiving of stories helps create a longevity to these stories and therefore helps maintain the culture.
Basile: Do you have any advice for communities that are considering putting a low power signal in their community?
Robbins: This radio broadcast is now just part of our community. Not only is it a great way to connect to the community, as a school principal I have the opportunity to make announcements anytime and everyone has access to that. So you have instant communication for everybody in the community.
While VHF is great for emergencies and quick broadcasts, the radio is more long-form and allows for a greater distribution of information and conversations. This program is so great because no internet is required. It is free; you don’t even have to pick up a phone to call into a conference call. We are creating less barriers for access to information. We have removed all the obstacles other than pressing an on button, and put everyone on an equal playing field when it comes to access to information.
To listen to some of the programs the Nelson Island Area School has produced for radio and Facebook Live, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ToksookBayIslanders