New Paltz schools debate drone use

(Don McCullough)

The advent of new technologies brings with it the need to revamp whatever rules are in place supporting older modes of operation. Drones are no exception. At their recent regular meeting on Wednesday, September 20, the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education gave a first reading to a policy that would restrict the use or operation of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as “drones” or remote-controlled aircrafts, anywhere on school premises without prior written permission of the superintendent of schools.

The prohibition would include the area above playing fields and surfaces and the areas above surrounding surfaces that are part of a facility, such as bleachers and other seating areas, parking lots, sidewalks, tracks and playgrounds.

Schools Superintendent Maria Rice said the matter was up for consideration by the board because the New York State Physical Education Association recently instituted a drone policy for the entire state that they were asking each school board to consider using. The association’s recommendation is that all activities be stopped if a drone were to enter a school area without prior permission, “but we thought there might be times when we actually want to use a drone for a reason,” said Rice.

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The school district’s attorney drafted a policy based on that recommended by the state Physical Education Association but with more flexibility, she added, with it being the board’s job now to decide how much drone use they will allow at the schools, and in which situations.

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