Volunteers to get schools on Internet 21 facilities to be wired this weekend

Effort will save money

State-sponsored push will connect most public schools

September 25, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County school officials will launch an ambitious volunteer effort this weekend to connect 79 schools not already on the Internet to that computer service.

After three weekends of wiring, nearly all public schools in the county will have access to the Internet. A handful of schools will not take advantage of the program, choosing instead to seek a state technology grant for more comprehensive wiring for data, voice and video transmission.

The plan is part of the state-sponsored Net Weekend, a 43-hour push from Sept. 27 to Sept. 29 to wire five classrooms and the media center in each school in the state lacking access to the information highway.

State and local educators are seeking help in the mammoth task from computer devotees as well as the technologically challenged, as volunteer labor will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in installation costs in Anne Arundel alone, and as much as $6 million statewide.

This weekend 21 schools in Anne Arundel should be wired, said Alicia A. Hardisky, a manager in the school system's division of technology and information services. While volunteers have been lined up for those schools, help still is needed for the weekends of Oct. 18-20 and and Nov. 8-10.

Each six-person volunteer team will be led by a technical expert. Some are county government, Anne Arundel Community College and county school employees, but many of the leaders are knowledgeable parents, Hardisky said. Much of the volunteer work will involve running enclosed cables along the lines where ceilings meet walls.

The county's effort is focusing on elementary and middle schools because high schools already have sophisticated computer connections through the often-criticized Advanced School Automation Program.

Parents say the Net program can give schools a boost they ordinarily would not get. Hillsmere Elementary, for example, acquired a computer with a modem a year ago through grocery store receipts, but has no telephone line for it.

"We would not have been able to have the phone line otherwise," said parent Mary Alice Gehrdes, a member of the school technology committee.

Each participating school will receive two computers, two monitors, two modems, two telephone connections and, if needed, free initial Internet access supplied through the state Department of Education. Anne Arundel will not take advantage of the free service to the Internet because it has a low-cost contract with Clarknet, said Robert C. Leib, director of business services.

After a year, schools will have to pick up the estimated $800 a year tab for the dedicated phone lines and Internet access, which county school officials say could force a financial squeeze.

"We feel that we are leaving with each of these schools that are wired approximately $6,000 in value at each school. We would suggest that they do things within their own organizations, PTAs, to raise money," said Dave Humphrey, spokesman for the state Department of General Services. "We are trying to match corporate sponsors to schools. But that's not going to be forever."

Gehrdes said several Hillsmere PTA parents decided this month to pursue corporate and business grants to substitute for candy and other sales and pay for continuing computer costs if necessary. It is easier to attain a specific sum for a specific goal from donors, they reasoned. Other school groups are doing the same.

More than 40 corporations and institutions have pledged $500,000 of the $1.7 million needed for hardware, software and equipment fees. But state officials said nearly another million dollars is needed.

In recent weeks, technology experts from school headquarters have been surveying the schools to decide where volunteers will lay cable, drill holes and attach wires. About a third of the schools have yet to be surveyed.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has been stirring up support for Net Weekend, will be on wiring teams at several schools, including Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Glen Burnie at 4: 30 p.m. Friday.

To be wired

Twenty-one Anne Arundel County Public Schools will be wired for Internet access this weekend:

Annapolis Elementary

Annapolis Middle

Belle Grove Elementary

Bodkin Elementary

Brooklyn Park Elementary

Crofton Elementary

Davidsonville Elementary

Four Seasons Elementary

George Cromwell Elementary

George Fox Middle

Georgetown East Elementary

High Point Elementary

Jacobsville Elementary

Lake Shore Elementary

Overlook Elementary

Pasadena Elementary

Pershing Hill Elementary

Richard Henry Lee Elementary

Ridgeway Elementary

Riviera Beach Elementary

Sunset Elementary

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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