You know those advertisements that run down the side of city buses and light rail trains? Now imagine them running the length of school halls, plastered on rows of lockers.

As Minnesota school districts scramble to make up for nearly $2 billion in delayed payments from the state, the Centennial School District in Circle Pines is considering such ads as a way to generate some cash.

The board discussed the idea Monday night but is going slowly.

"In normal times, I don't think we would be looking at this," said Superintendent Paul Stremick. "Comments I've heard from parents is that this isn't at the top of the list, but in these times you have to do what you need to do."

Board member Suzy Guthmueller said parents told her they want to know what the money will be used for specifically. "They are in support of advertisements as long as we ... know exactly where the money will go."

Another board member, Karen Lodico, said ads would have to be for beneficial products.

"They need to be educational and nutritional. We're not going to be advertising for Pepsi. Sorry. No can do."

The district began the discussion in June when OMCM Marketing Solutions in Andover posed the idea of wrapping student lockers with ads similar to those that appear on Metro Transit buses. OMCM gave a formal presentation to the board last month. The ads could bring the district up to $100,000 a year, said Stremick.

"Districts may consider this if it's the difference between cutting a couple of teachers or putting advertisements in the cafeteria," said Greg Abbott, director of communications for the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Districts face cutbacks, growing class sizes and soaring extracurricular fees, so it's hard not to give an option like this consideration, said Charlie Kyte, executive director of Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

Administrators will think about the appropriate ages for ads, the kinds of ads and the places where ads might go, said Kyte.

"That informs policy discussion as districts wrestle with where to get those few extra dollars to keep the speech team going or assistant coach on," said Kyte.

The board didn't indicate when a decision might be made, and Abbott put the issue in the state's lap.

"Until the state funds take care of the schools adequately, [options like these] won't go away," he said.

Hannah Gruber • 612-673-4864