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More technical support is needed for computers in schools

March 15, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

Washington County Public Schools are well-equipped in the number of computers for students, but the school system is severely lacking in technical support to service the computers, according to a report by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education.

Betsy Klein, Washington County's director of technology, said the school system has seven technicians to service more than 5,000 computers.

When equipment breaks or software acts up, Klein said it's likely that schools will wait until a technician is available to fix it.

"They work on a rotating basis," Klein said. "It never seems to be enough."

According to the "Where Do We Stand in 2002" report, Washington County has one of the more serious computer technician shortages in the state.

"Washington County's problem is a fairly severe one," said June Streckfus, executive director of the roundtable. "The technology is only as good as its support."

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Streckfus said without proper support, teachers are less likely to use computers for instruction.

"Teachers would be reluctant to use it if it shuts down on them and they're not going to have the support to bring it back up," she said.

Streckfus said the group is recommending that schools have one technician for every 300 computers. As it stands now, Washington County has one technician for approximately every 740 computers.

"We very, very seriously need technicians," Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. "It's just a matter of knowing how much money we have."

She said the secondary schools are more affected by the lack of technical support because more students depend on computer-assisted instruction.

"It really doesn't do us any good to have a lot of computers in a classroom if people don't know how to use them or if there aren't people to service them," Morgan said.

Morgan said the school system wants to use money from other funds to put toward technology. She said, however, she didn't know if the school system would have the money to make hiring more technicians a priority this year.

"We know we're behind," Morgan said. "We're going to have some hard decisions to make."

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