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TMCNet:  Janesville School District: 'Dying' computer equipment poses risk

[February 20, 2013]

Janesville School District: 'Dying' computer equipment poses risk

JANESVILLE, Feb 20, 2013 (The Janesville Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Hundreds of pieces of Janesville School District computer equipment are outdated and need replacement, district officials say, and they are working on a plan to do that.

Robert Smiley, the district's new chief information officer, presented a detailed inventory of computer equipment and infrastructure to a school board committee Tuesday night.

The district also released a statement in conjunction with the presentation. The statement says many desktop computers are more than seven years old and in need of replacement.

"Monitors are dying, keyboards are failing and graphics cards are outdated," according to the statement. "Student achievement could potentially be compromised due to the inefficiencies of these desktop computers. Newer software and today's complex websites do not function properly on outdated computers." The statement says budget constraints have kept the district from replacing computers in recent years.

Smiley told the committee that $1.8 million would be needed in the next budget to replace aging technology. That includes replacing 1,909 of the total 4,309 computer workstations, 309 of the 1,011 laptop computers and 144 of the 1,210 iPads.

Not a part of Smiley's report is what the district might do to improve computer access for students and staff. Some schools have more SMART Boards and iPads than other schools, so equity is an issue, Smiley said.

Smiley said he would bring a recommendation for equity and for growth in computing devices to the board, probably in April.

Smiley said a teacher sent him a note Tuesday referring to the fact that the Parkview School Board just approved a plan to borrow money to provide one iPad per student in grades 7-12 over the next three years.

Smiley said his response was that he doesn't know how Parkview plans to replace those iPads as they age.

"In Janesville, we're trying to grow, but we're going to grow wisely, so we know that we can sustain it," he said.

One other hint about improving computer access: Smiley said the district needs to buy 222 more SMART Boards so that every classroom in the district has one. That would cost more than $500,000, he estimated.

No one at the meeting questioned the assumption that computer technology is vital to a 21st century education.

"The School District of Janesville has realized that failure to make technology integral to teaching and learning will render current educational approaches irrelevant to students," according to the statement.

Also not considered on Tuesday were the district's software needs. Smiley plans to present them to the committee next month.

Among other items, Smiley told the committee that the district should: -- Consider replacing its 15-year-old telephone system.

-- Add 48 wireless access points to fill holes in wireless Internet coverage.

In a separate conversation, Smiley told The Gazette that officials are considering adding Chromebooks to the district's computer arsenal. Chromebook is a laptop-like product that runs Google software.

___ (c)2013 The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.) Visit The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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