Radios for Elementary School

I am an instructional aide for a K-8th school. We use borrowed radios for our “driveline” afternoon pick up to talk amongst the 10 aides that are outside for this. I have been given the recommendation of the DTR 550/650 series radios from a Co. Sheriffs radio user. We would also like to use them within the school for additional teachers and aides for emergency type situations. So would like to have around 20 radios in use.

I have been reading the product reviews for the DTR 410, 550 and the TSX300.
This information is quite good. It is still hard to determine if these are what we need. We don’t want to purchase something that doesn’t work like the horrible Motorolla’s that we had previously and were very scratchy. We also don’t have lots of $$ rolling around. We have a fear of purchasing these radios and they wont work. Any recommendations?

First point is, NO radio used simplex is going to cover more than 1/2 to 2 miles (at best) well. Most are lucky to get a mile well.

As ole’ Scotty would say, ‘Cap’n, I canna change the laws of physics!’

The TSX-300 is probably fine for you, IF you’re trying to cover a school. 900 MHz should do quite well getting ‘into’ buildings.

If you’re trying to talk to people driving around town, no go. For that, you need a commercial business repeater, or cellphones/Nextel type push to talk phones.

To clarify, we are not driving around town. The aides stand outside while the parents come to pick up their children at the end of school day. Driveline is our system of safely getting the children out of the school and home. We have a number system per family and use itouches to send information to classrooms. The kids them come out to designated door where their parents will be. The aides need to communicate with each other to reenter numbers when children dont come out to their cars.

The DTRs ought to work fine for you then. My wife is a teacher, and amazingly enough, they have a similar system that you have… minus the radios though.

While pricey, they certainly will work, and you do not need an FCC license.

Alternativerly, the Trisquare TSX-300s could do the same job while costing a lot less. They also have text messaging capability, as well as being more or less secure, and not prone to interference or monitoring.

The Drawback to the Trisquares, is they are not commercial grade, which could lead to damage from being dropped. Also… there is a “learning curve” to their use. someone could push the wrong button and lose communications… research and see if theu could possibly work.

The DTR’s would be a VERY good option. They can be programmed to be kind of foolproof, and have more durability.

Thank You for your input. We are worried about going with something that costs less, due to the previous Motorola “cheapy” models (T8500)that were invested in and didn’t work. They were too scratchy and couldn’t understand anyone. So now the school has all these radios and they are junk. Anyway. We are trying to make the best decision for the cost, as I am sure your wife can attest to being a teacher.

In your opinion, are the DTR 410’s better or the DTR 650’s? I believe they are about the same cost. It sounds like the programing is easier on the 410 than the 550/650 according to the reviews on this website.

It sounds like you have gotten good advice from your County Sheriff!

The programming is the same on all of the DTR models, except the DTR410 radios can be programmed using free software from Motorola. The others require more expensive software …

… BUT you should consider exactly how much “programming” you need to do. For basic channel and public group programming, it is all done through the radio keyboard. These are very sophisticated radios, but they don’t have to be complicated if you don’t want. Unpack them, turn them on, maybe change the channel and unit ID to a different number than the factory default and you are good to go.

The software is only needed if you want to name all your radios and your groups with unique alphanumeric names, instead of just the default numeric names.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t bother. Just unpack them, turn them on and you are ready to go.

If someone gets real ambitious, you can buy the Motorola mini-keyboard and program each radio one at a time, but again for most people, they can just unpack them, switch the channels to match each other and just start using them. You do not NEED any “programming” to use them right from the box.

If I may be so bold as to offer a recommendation based on my testing, I think the DTR radios would work perfectly, and you won’t need the DTR550/650; the DTR410 will do everything you need.

Yes, they are expensive but they are an industrial-grade business radio after all. The first time you take your FRS radios out in the pouring rain, you will regret not getting the Motorola DTR radios!

The 900 MHz frequency band also does a great job cutting through the metal and concrete of buildings in urban areas that VHF radios may struggle with a bit more. As for range, no VHF or UHF (the DTR radios are in the high end of the UHF frequency spectrum) radio is going to give you more than a few blocks under ideal conditions but my exhaustive testing has shown that the DTR radios have about as good a range as it is possible to get with any portable VHF/UHF radio.

The other thing is that the DTR radios are pure digital, meaning that the broadcast always comes across crystal-clear. And I mean CLEAR. The readability of the voices is one of the best I have ever heard, and they are so clear that you will cry if you had to go back to an FRS radio.

Because the DTR radios are digital and they ‘hop’ frequencies every 90 milliseconds, they cannot be monitored by consumer-level scanners. Only Motorola DTR radios can hear other DTR users, and if by some very very rare chance there is another person outside your group with a DTR on the same channel and same unit ID number (there are 10 channels and a 100 unit ID numbers available) then you can easily switch channels. You can also program each radio’s unique identifier into each of your other radios and set up your own virtual private “net.” Each radio can be set up to broadcast ONLY to other users programmed into this private “net” (private one-to-many calling.) You can also call one other radio at a time (one-to-one calling) almost like a cell phone, and other users can use the same channel as you at the same time.

Another issue is the legality. I know some schools use FRS radios for your purpose but this is not legal because the FRS band is designed for recreational use among family members. The DTR radios (and the TriSquare radios) transmit around 900 MHZ and not only do they not need any kind of licence but they are also totally legal for personal or business use.

There are some downsides. Unlike the TriSquare models, the Motorola radios are pure digital. This means they either work 100% or they don’t work at all. Before they transmit, they will send a 1/2 second ‘handshake’ signal to other radios on the same channel and unit ID number to be sure at least one other radio is within range. If there are no other radios within range, they don’t transmit at all. There is no fuzzy signal at the very edge of their range; they are 100% clear or they don’t transmit at all. FRS radios are plagued by interference from hundreds of users all fighting for the same few frequencies and you can sometimes get a lot of interference.

The other downside is that you need to educate users a bit before they use it. You need to show them how they have to hold down the push-to-talk (PTT) button, listen for the 1/2 second tone, and then start talking while holding down the PTT button. They should also hold it down for another 1/2 second when they are finished talking, just to be sure they don’t cut themselves off.

When I give new users my DTR radios, they almost invariably forget to wait for the 1/2 second ‘handshake’ tone before they start talking, or they push down on the PTT and hear the tone, release the button and start talking. It takes a bit of edumacating users.

As for the 410 versus the 550/650, the 410 has a shorter moulded-in antenna that is only very slightly shorter range than the 550/650 with their longer ‘rubber ducky’ antennas, but the generation II DTR410 has some great features that even the 550 doesn’t have. Our hosts on this forum sell the newest generation 410 (and I am sure they could special order the 550 for you if you wanted) but quite frankly, for the purposes that you describe, the DTR410 is going to work perfectly.

I will absolutely guarantee that if the cost is within your budget, you are not going to regret spending the money.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask away. I have several DTR550s and a DTR410, and am starting to know these radios fairly well. They impress me more and more every day. (Now if I could just get people to remember to push the button, wait for the tone, and THEN start talking …)


Chicken Hawk: Thank You! I read your reviews on the review section before I joined this forum. I thought you did a great job explaining the models. Just a big decision in purchasing these or any type of radio. Thanks for the tip on the PTT button. The radios we are currently using, work great but are borrowed and some of the users have trouble with cutting themselves off.

To All at TWRF- This website is awesome! Very user friendly, has a lot of detail, not just someone “complaining” about whatever. The pros and cons for radios are listed, and explained. I am definitely a newbie to all this information, this site has definitely helped me:D

We definitely appreciate your positive review! Two way radios can be very tricky. My staff, as well as most of the members of the forum, do a nice job providing info to folks like yourself.

So here I am again. We are trying to take a leap here and are afraid of purchasing radio’s that just don’t perform. Since the radios are not “returnable” after being opened we are really wanting to make sure we get what we need. So I have received some great advice, but now would like to get opinion on a Motorola DTR 410/650 vs Kenwood TK-2300/3300. Going to check out forum opinions to see what others have said. Thanks for all help.:slight_smile:

The DTRs are commercial grade. I’ve never seen or used one; but I cannot see any reason why they wouldn’t effectively work for your application. At my wife’s school, they use conventional UHF commercial radios. The DTRs digital security is also a plus… especially in the times we deal with now. It seems you are on the right track.

I can’t comment on the Kenwood radios because I haven’t used them, but keep in mind they are a different class of business radio. I am not an expert on business radios and I know some of the folks in here can explain it better, but like most business radios, you will need specific assigned frequencies and a business licence to be able to use them. You don’t just unpack them and turn them on; you let your radio retailer know the frequencies you have been assigned by the FCC on your business licence and they program them into your radio. (Some business radios can be self-programmed, but again you need to use only your own frequencies.)

When dealing with businesses, the FCC will not allow others on the same frequency in the same area because the frequency needs to be virtually guaranteed against interference from another user and this is why they need be be licenced for each specific business or organization.

Exceptions to licence requirements are so-called “family radios” such as FRS and GMRS that use common channels for ALL users. With certain restrictions, depending on the country, all users use the same channels. If there is another user in your area on the same channel, then you either have to live with them hearing everything you say and you hearing everything they say, or you change channels until you hopefully find one with no other users in your vicinity.

With an upgrade to business radios from ‘family radios,’ you get commercial-grade, industrial-quality radios (and even military grade - “mil-spec” radios.) They will last longer when subjected to regular use and are often more durable and water-resistant. They usually have a much greater audio output power and better speakers, which enhances the clarity and understandability of the broadcast.

If you don’t want to get a business licence and your own assigned frequencies, then your choices in the business class are more limited:

#1- Radio dealers in the U.S. (but not Canada) can reprogram some business radios with the public-use GMRS frequencies for you (but then you still have the problem of all members of the public sharing the same few frequencies.)

#2- You can also look at MURS radios, which are common-frequencies in the VHF spectrum, similar to the FRS bands, don’t require a licence and are generally found in better-quality radios.

#3- There are also the frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) radios from Motorola (the industrial-grade DTR series) and TriSquare (the consumer-grade TSX100 and TSX300) that don’t require a licence. Motorola DTR users can only talk to other Motorola users, and they share a ‘band’ of frequencies, but rapidly hop from frequency to frequency every 400 milliseconds (TriSquare) or 90 milliseconds (Motorola DTR) and thus don’t interfere with any other users on the same band.

FHSS are fairly ‘secure’ in the fact that each brand has its own proprietary hopping algorithm and any other users in your area would need to have the same brand of radio AND be on the same channel AND be on the same unit ID number. This makes it unlikely anyone will be able to hear you. Scanners can pick up the transmissions but this is difficult to do with most consumer-level scanners with the Tri-Square radios, and almost impossible with the faster-hopping DTR radios.

When we say “secure” however, we are talking about how they are marketed, not by some guarantee of security. They are not “encrypted” radios such as many police agencies use, they are just very very difficult to monitor.

So I hope this helps. Your school will need to decide if it wants to proceed with a business licence and obtain assigned frequencies or if it wants to stay with the unlicenced business radios such as MURS or FHSS.

As I said before, if your school can afford the DTR radios, you will not be disappointed in any way, especially by the quality of the radio and the clarity of the transmissions.

Well, back to square 1. Actually 2 I guess. Apparently when we tried to order the DTR 410 series, we were told they are out of stock. So missed out on rebate and etc. Also sounds like they will be out of stock for 2-3 months. Soooo, now I need to find something comparable that will work for us. That is something that comes close to the DTR 410.

I have looked at the Kenwood TK3300U16P, and Trisquare TSX300, but not as much in detail.

Any thoughts out there? confused:

Sorry you couldn’t place your order. Perhaps another seller has them in stock.

The TriSquares would work for you; but they would require a greater learning curve than you would want. You want a simple, turn it on and talk radio, without having to worry about accidentally doing something you don’t want to do.