RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- A group of Sacred Heart Parish School parents have voiced their opposition to the installation of a cell phone tower on church grounds, citing concerns over radiation being emitted from the tower.

The parents said they may even remove their children from the K-8 school if Sacred Heart Parish Church moves forward with the project.

The Diocese of San Bernardino recently agreed to let Verizon build the 45-foot-high tower near the school and church at 12676 Foothill Blvd.

But diocese spokesman John Andrews said radiation emission from the tower is projected to be 10 times lower than the maximum level permitted by the Federal Communications Commission.

"We would never enter into any agreement if we felt there could be any health risk to the students at the school," Andrews said.

The agreement calls for the tower to be built at the western face of the school's "Blue Hall," which faces the northern edge of the school's grass field where children play.

Sacred Heart Parish is expected to receive monthly revenue from the Verizon agreement, but Andrews declined to specify the amount.

Parent Chito Alcantara said he had walked out of a meeting in November between parents and school officials about the tower.

"I told (the parish minister): `What's the use of us sitting here listening to you if everything is going to be approved by the diocese?"' said Alcantara, who has been a parishioner since 2000 and a school parent for the past five years.


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"This is a private school, and we pay for the school, and we pay for the salaries of the teachers, so they should have at least had the courtesy to let us know and give us a heads up that this project was coming."

Andrews acknowledged that communication with the school and church community about the project could have been better.

Some parents have also expressed anger that they weren't notified until October about the project, which had been in the works for at least two years.

The Planning Commission had approved a conditional use permit for the tower in January and a building permit was approved in October, officials said.

"Our concern is that this is a threat to the health and safety of our children," said Edobor Gbenoba, a parent of a Sacred Heart Parish School student.

"We believe the first responsibility of any school is toward protection and providing a safe environment for the students."

An earlier plan would have placed the tower in the northern-most tip of the property. The location would have been above the parking lot and north of the school grounds, but city setback requirements led the church to decide to move the tower to its present proposed location, Andrews said.

Setback requirements are related more to the city's aesthetic policy direction - not to radiation levels, said Tabe Van der Zwaag, a city planner involved in the tower project.

Gbenoba said he was told by a school official that moving the tower closer to Foothill Boulevard and the main church building on the southern part of the property was considered.

"I'm not aware of any proposal to move the proposed site or any talks about that," Andrews said.

The diocese is "listening to the concerns being expressed and is working toward a solution that makes these folks more comfortable with this project," Andrews said.

Placement of the tower anywhere on the property would be unacceptable, Gbenoba said.

"The Catholic church is the richest church in the world," Gbenoba said.

"They have all the money in the world to conduct thorough research that is independent of the research they receive from Verizon and they haven't done that. They cannot just make a statement that is not predicated on factual scientific evidence."


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