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Hollywood High School Considers Digital Billboard At Sunset And Highland

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The Los Angeles Unified School District is hard up for cash, so one school is taking advantage of its prime location to make a little money on the side.

Earlier this month, Alejandra Sanchez, the principal of Hollywood High School, and Quinton Dean, LAUSD's deputy chief procurement officer, proposed a plan to erect a digital billboard at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The billboard would be on school grounds, and have two faces pointing at both streets, according to an artist's rendering in the proposal's presentation. The advertising from the billboard would potentially give Hollywood High School "hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue." According to LA School Report, the school needs the money to pay for AP textbooks and equipment for their New Media Academy.

"We are in a prime area in Hollywood and we have a lack of funds to support our Advanced Placement program," Principal Sanchez said at a presentation to the LAUSD's Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee earlier this month.

Advertising at schools is always a contentious issue, and digital billboards in Los Angeles makes the matter all the more complicated. Digital billboards are generally banned across the city after complaints from residents and concerns they would distract drivers. One of the few locations where they are allowed is just down the street from Hollywood High School, at Hollywood and Highland.

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According to the presentation, the billboard would have "zero upfront or continuing cost for the school," as the vendor would pay for its installation and maintenance. All of the advertising being displayed on the billboard would need to be approved by LAUSD. "The vendors would do everything, but the district would have control of the sign," said Dean.

According to the L.A. Times, New Mexico's Albuquerque Public Schools district (the largest in that state), has already embraced digital advertising. The district brings in about $225,000 per year from eight signs, according to the Times.

The Hollywood High proposal, of course, raises several concerns beyond the encroachment of advertising into an educational space. The billboard would go up at one of the busiest intersections in the city, potentially creating a new distraction for drivers. "We have had, unfortunately, numerous students and parents hit by cars since September," said LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff, who also chairs the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee.

Another board member, George McKenna, raised the possibility that the sign could potentially be hacked by one of the students. "Some little brainiac is going to hack into it and who knows what they can do with that sign," he said.

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