School District Explores Options for KGHP-FM

The value of a community radio station depends upon whom you ask.

Abersold on the air.
Abersold on the air. Lisa Bryan, KP News

Kris Hagel, executive director of digital learning for Peninsula School District, commissioned an appraisal and educational assessment in July of KGHP-FM to consider its options as a school district and a radio station owner.

“Peninsula High School no longer offers classes in radio broadcasting due to a lack of student interest,” according to an email from Aimee Gordon, director of communications at PSD, sent to KP News.

“The study will tell us what’s needed to support the station if student interest increases,” Gordon wrote. “It will also help us determine the current value of the assets we have in the station. As a public agency responsible to the local taxpayers, we want to explore all of our options with KGHP.”

It is not the first time KGHP General Manager Spencer Abersold has been informed by the district that the local community radio station was at risk.

“I’m speaking out for the people who have put time, money, commitment and effort, thoughts and prayers –– everything that has gone into making this radio station happen,” Abersold told KP News.

According to Abersold, KGHP was created when community members Keith Stiles, Don Hoffman, Max Bice and Bill Boyd decided the community needed a radio station and went to the district, which agreed to be a partner in the endeavor in 1988. The community fund-raised to pay for all the equipment and the licensing, and gave it to the district.

“It began as a community station,” Abersold said. “I stand on the shoulders of giants and I want to ensure the kids growing up in this community have the same opportunities in life that I did.”

KGHP provides live-action radio coverage of home football games for both Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools. They cover boys and girls varsity basketball at home games whenever possible and sometimes remotely at Gig Harbor High. They also cover high school baseball games occasionally at special events at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. KGHP produces live broadcasts of Key Peninsula candidate forums, informs the public during outages, emergencies and disaster situations, and plays a wide variety of music.

Abersold said the station takes in around $40,000 a year in local sponsorships.

“This year we got a check from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for $25,000 in addition to sponsorships from Pen Met Parks, the City of Gig Harbor, Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One, the YMCA and many others.”

In the early days of Covid, KGHP went into action. A hospital needed gloves and masks to be donated, information about meal deliveries and schedules had to go out, and other resources were made available.

For the first six months of the pandemic, the only people allowed in the school building were the principal, Abersold, and a custodian or two.

“It was kind of creepy. There were moments it was absolutely surreal.” Abersold said.

Before the pandemic, he said he thought of emergencies as fires, earthquakes, and natural disasters. The emergence of Covid delivered the message that disaster can strike in many forms at any time. He believes that radio remains the best communication tool to reach everyone in an emergency.

“KGHP gives students an opportunity to learn and grow in a field they are passionate about. Maybe they aren’t a football star or a math genius … but they like to talk about things and can be entertaining,” Abersold said.

David Takehara, a junior at PHS, began broadcasting his own show, “The After School Drop,” as a freshman in a radio broadcasting class with Leland Smith, who retired last school year. His show counts down the top 30 songs in the U.S. each week, takes requests, and interacts on air with listeners who call the station.

“Right now, I’m one of the only student DJs,” Takehara said. His time in the studio in 2020 was cut short by Covid, but he was back on the air in late March and into July, hoping to return this fall.

Takehara thought of pursuing journalism for a while but found himself more interested in the technical aspects of broadcasting.

“That’s why I like KGHP, because not only do we get to produce our own shows but we also get to do everything behind the scenes,” he said. “It’s not just flipping switches and pressing some buttons. It’s learning how to use different programs and the best ways to transition this audio into that audio, figuring out how different audio files work together.”

There is no question Takehara wants to continue. He said Smith was “hip to the podcasting craze,” and students each produced a podcast as part of the class.

“I think there’s some crossover,” he said, “but I still like radio more because of the live aspect of it and being able to interact on the air with people.”

KGHP-FM broadcasts at 89.3, 89.9 and 105.7 with online streaming available on TuneIn.