School officials will ask county council to release funds for computer network

October 03, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

County school officials hope to persuade the County Council tonight to let them have the $500,000 for a pilot computer program the council approved during its budget session this past spring but tucked away in a contingency fund.

Council members said then that they wanted the school board's technology experts to answer questions about the sophisticated computer network -- dubbed ASAP, Advanced School Automation Project -- and present a complete plan before they turned over the money.

A committee planning the network is to meet with council members an hour before tonight's regular meeting to update them on its progress.

The computer network, which would be established over five years, is expected to cost from $17 million to $24 million, according to the county budget office.

School officials said they are pursuing donations from private industry and have received about $800,000 in computer technology in the last four months.

Several council members said they still have concerns about the project, which eventually would provide at least one computer lab in each school with terminals linked to each other and to a mainframe computer at school headquarters.

"One question I have is, is it going to be outdated before it is implemented?" said Councilman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat.

Councilman Carl. G. "Dutch" Holland, a Pasadena Republican, wants the committee to examine leasing the equipment rather than buying it. "In the long run, that may be the best way to do it, because the technology changes so fast," he said.

Council President C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, wonders whether the system would do what school officials say it would and whether their cost estimates are realistic.

If approved, the ASAP project would begin in the Arundel High School feeder system, which includes Crofton and Arundel middle schools, and Crofton, Crofton Woods, Crofton Meadows, Waugh Chapel and Odenton elementaries.

James Hamilton, principal of South River High School and chairman of the school system's technology task force, said the system could be installed and running within three months after the council releases the money.

"We're talking about a very intensive period of training and a very intensive installation period for these schools," he said.

School officials also have designed a program to determine how well the computers are being used and to suggest changes in installation or in teacher training.

The meeting is to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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