Published 12:06 am Friday, March 27, 2015

Andalusia Elementary students Marion Starnes (left at camera), Amanda Majors (at table) and Drew Seymore (far right) get ready to go on air Thursday morning. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Andalusia Elementary students Marion Starnes (left at camera), Amanda Majors (at table) and Drew Seymore (far right) get ready to go on air Thursday morning. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Andalusia Elementary fifth graders Drew Seymore and Amanda Majors get their cue and the broadcast begins.

Seymore and Majors are the lead anchors for the WAES Morning News, a broadcast TV station based in the elementary school.

For more than two months, talented and gifted (TAG) students in grades 3-5 have been delivering the news via closed circuit TV to students in grades K-5.

“The kids do it all,” AES fifth grade teacher and sponsor, Barbara Peek said. “I’m just a whip cracker.”

Peek, who has been playing the roles of director and producer for the small TV station, helps write the script for each day’s broadcast. Every afternoon, the on-camera personality goes through a rehearsal.

Majors and Seymore get right to work reading the script for Thursday morning’s airing. Peek chimes in with cues to either slow down their pace or when to pause for background music.

During yesterday’s news, WAES paid tribute — as it does often — to Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame because it was his birthday. The team also wishes happy birthdays to students and teachers in the school. Third grader Emmy Mixson told the school about Nimoy.

Peek said the station does it all — news, birthdays, weather and sports.

“The weather report is here because teachers asked for it,” she said. “We asked teachers what they’d like to see on WAES Morning News.”

Peek said some other suggestions included what’s on the menu for lunch, giving a famous quote and others.

In addition to the on-air talent, WAES has students working a mixer, soundboard, cameras and the teleprompter. A mixer changes the different cameras during the broadcast, a soundboard controls the background music and sound, and the teleprompter — controlled by an iPad — displays the script. Those working behind the camera include Marion Starnes, Grace Shellhouse, Collin Davis, Aidan Higgins and Ashli Parker.

Within the newsroom, students rotate from being on air to behind the camera on a two-week basis.

Peek said she’s trying to give the fifth graders more time on air as they will be moving on to sixth grade next year. As of right now, the show isn’t being broadcast in the new wing at AES, but Peek is trying to get a live stream of the show set up.

While this may be a new addition to the daily life of the school, the equipment has been around for a while.

“We’ve had the equipment forever,” Peek said. “Cathy Powell used to do this, but not live. When I taught in Pensacola years ago, we had a TV studio there. We used to do the morning news live.

“It got to where I just took them to the TV studio, they wrote the script and they did back drops,” she said. “We’re going to work to that (at AES). That’s my goal right now.”

WAES first went on air the second week school let in after the Christmas holidays, Peek said.

During the run up to the Super Bowl, Seymore got the chance to interview Cincinnati Bengals linebacker and Andalusia native Nico Johnson.

“It was 7:30 in the morning and here he is walking in,” Peek said about Johnson, adding that high schoolers who play sports also have been willing to contribute to the broadcast.

Peek said she knows the station is in its baby stage, but hopes it will get to where the students do everything on their own.

“While it’s in the infancy stages, we’re trying to get the basics,” she said. “It’s kind of nice that it’s not all digital because they’re getting a hands-on idea of how everything works. They didn’t realize it at first, but it is live, and how the camera changes and speed at which they speak.

“We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to work with what we have for now,” she said.

As the morning broadcast neared its end, Shellhouse was spot on in her cue.

“And, we’re out.”