Md. sets drive to tie schools to Internet 5,000 volunteers sought to install service at 700 schools in Sept.

July 11, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

The state is organizing a campaign of 5,000 volunteers to wire 700 Maryland schools to the Internet on the weekend of Sept. 27, as part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's five-year plan to spend $53 million on computer systems at the state's 1,262 public school systems.

The plan calls for connecting at least five classrooms and one other room -- such as a media center or library -- in each school to the Net, said Major F. Riddick Jr., the governor's chief of staff.

In addition, state officials hope to arrange donations of at least two computers to each school that does not have at least that many available to students.

"This is going to be a tremendous statewide effort to assure that every community and every child has equal access to technology," the governor said at a State House news conference yesterday.

The campaign will begin at 2 p.m. Sept. 27 and last until 9 a.m. Sept. 29, the governor said.

"During those 43 hours, we expect to be able to wire every school in the state not currently wired," he said.

The governor emphasized that officials are not looking for volunteers who are exclusively engineers or programmers. "If you can use a drill or hold a ladder it will be helpful," he said.

Reiterating a theme he has stressed in recent talks about the state's economy, Glendening said that 60 percent of jobs will require computer skills by 2000, but that only 20 percent of students have the training they will need.

"We're not just talking about high-tech research jobs," the governor said, saying even jobs in traditionally low-skill industries like distribution and manufacturing will require at least some computer skills. "We owe it to ourselves to assure that every child has access to those jobs of the future."

The effort will cost $3,400 to $4,400 per school, Riddick said, most of which represents the cost of computers. A wiring kit costs about $350 per school, but the free labor means that connection costs statewide will be far less than if the job were done by paid workers, he said.

Dave Humphrey, a spokesman for the state Department of General Services, said an ad hoc committee of state employees, school administrators and private-sector representatives is seeking donations of the actual computers. He said the administration is trying to raise all the expenses for the weekend privately, rather than use state funds.

Riddick, who chairs the panel, said possible donors include local PTAs or businesses that adopt specific schools. Patuxent River Naval Air Station is a major contributor to the St. Mary's County effort, he said.

Other expenses are being picked up by an array of corporate donors, the biggest of which is AT&T Corp.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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