Schools seek $360,000 for computer net Countywide network proposed with links to library, Internet; Elementaries lack equipment; Superintendent says technology plan is one of chief goals


Education officials asked the County Commissioners last night to add $360,000 to the school board's proposed capital budget to link public schools to a countywide computer network.

They want schools linked to each other, the board and the public library, which would provide access to the Internet.

In addition, school officials want each school to have a local area network that would tie computers in each classroom to every other classroom and the school's central office.

Most schools have local networks or will have them by July.

But Spring Garden, Piney Ridge and William Winchester elementary schools do not. The board wants to use $220,000 of the additional $360,000 it is seeking to put computer networks in those schools.

The board wants $100,000 of that request used to upgrade existing networks at other schools.

The remaining $40,000 would be used for a local computer network in the board's central office.

"Continuing the implementation of a systemwide technology plan is one of our chief goals," Superintendent Brian Lockard told the commissioners. "It is an effective teaching tool, and we are making every attempt to have state-of-the-art equipment and programs for our students to work with."

But a county planning panel, which reviews departmental capital budget requests each October, urged the commissioners to reject all computer-related requests until Carroll hires a "computer guru" to oversee purchases and ensure that new computers are compatible.

The county budget office urged funding of one of the board's computer requests, but did not include the networks on its list of recommendations to the County Commissioners.

The budget office suggested, however, that the commissioners approve $124,500 in local funding for a state-sponsored Technology in Schools program that would produce $753,038 in state matching grants.

The leveraging of local money was too good to pass up, Budget Director Steven D. Powell told the commissioners.

Powell did not include funding for other computer requests in the capital budget proposal out of deference to the planning commission, he said.

"There is some additional money" for government, school and library computers, he said, but "it in no way approaches the [$1.4 million] the school system is asking" over the next three years.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown told school officials they might have to choose between technology and "bricks and mortar" at some point because the county may not be able to afford both in future capital budgets.

Brown noted that Carroll County Community College already appears to be making that choice and will begin teaching classes over the Internet this fall. He said students in those courses will come to class one day a week and wondered whether a similar system would be possible for county high schools.

Lockard told Brown he thought a system in which high school students do course work from home is at least 15 years away, if it comes at all.

But there will be some "distance courses" offered in Carroll when the technology network is completed, the superintendent predicted.

The technology discussion was part of the school board's presentation to the commissioners of its $149 million operating budget request and $18.9 million capital budget request for fiscal 1998, which begins July 1.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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