Dozens share talents to wire schools for 'Net

September 28, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Volunteers rolled up their shirtsleeves during the third annual Maryland Net Weekend on Saturday and went to work installing new Internet connections at four Washington County elementary schools.

"All our schools are Internet accessible now, but not everywhere within the school," said Dennis McGee, director of facilities management for the county Board of Education.

For example, the 4th and 5th grade classes at Boonsboro Elementary School already had Internet access. On Saturday, the 2nd and 3rd grade classes were connected.

Eastern, Clear Spring and Fountaindale elementary schools were also wired for Internet access on Saturday.

Nine other local schools got new computers. They are the Alternative School, Cascade Elementary, Conococheague Elementary, Fairview Outdoor School, Greenbrier Elementary, Old Forge Elementary, Pangborn Elementary, South Hagerstown High and Williamsport Elementary.


The projects were funded through state technology grants. The thirteen local schools got $2,200 each. Officials at each school decided how they wanted to spend the money, McGee said.

Dozens of volunteers - parents, school officials and craftsmen - worked from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday. When they were finished, all the county's schools had multiple Internet "drops," McGee said.

"We're way ahead of most counties," he said.

McGee said eight county schools got wiring during the first Net Weekend, and six schools the following year. This year, the job was tougher, he said.

"We've pretty much done the schools where everything's easy to get to," he said. "Now we're left with the schools with funny hallways and high ceilings. This year, we leaned more on parent volunteers who are electricians or have some other expertise," he said.

"It's not that we don't appreciate all volunteers. It's a matter of skill levels we needed this time around.''

McGee said several local contractors also helped on Saturday. They brought the necessary equipment, such as trucks, ladders and drills, along with their expertise.

He said that while the media focus is usually on Net Weekend, which is a statewide event, work improving local school technology goes on throughout the year. He said sometimes volunteers do work at schools in the evenings or on weekends.

In Maryland, 402 public schools were awarded technology grants totaling $866,000 in 1998. They were earmarked for wiring, hardware, software and teacher training.

During Net Weekend, 90 of those schools were wired for Internet access, state officials said.

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