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Sweetwater schools will soon bring advertisements onto middle and high school campuses and school websites, hoping to yield as much as $1 million in new revenue as their budgets are crunched.

Under an agreement with 4 Visual Media Group, the school district will choose which advertising companies are acceptable. It plans to split the money 50-50 between school sites where ads are placed and the larger school district budget. If all schools sign on, it expects to generate up to $1 million.

Sweetwater Union High School District spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said as it stands now, the ads will likely be for juices, sports drinks and clothing. A committee of educators and parents is setting out guidelines for what works and what doesn’t. USA Today reported earlier this year on one reason why advertising in schools is so sensitive:

“This is really tricky stuff for school districts, though,” says Richard Colvin, director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University in New York. “They have to be very careful about the image that they’re projecting.”

The South County district, which includes middle and high schools from San Ysidro to National City, isn’t the only school system to weigh ads as a way to counteract budget cuts: San Diego Unified batted around the idea earlier this year. The San Diego County Office of Education saved some of its programs with commercial sponsorships, the Union-Tribune reported.

And for years, a Rancho Bernardo teacher has gotten both local and national attention for selling ads on the exams that his students take.

Have you seen ads cropping up at your neighborhood school? Know of other districts that are doing this? Please shoot me your tips at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

— EMILY ALPERT

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