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Smithsburg aims to fund computer lab

April 12, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG -Sherry Schweinhart said her daughter's college professor chuckled when he learned her daughter had graduated from a Maryland high school.

He wasn't laughing at the quality of education, but at the quality of technology provided by some schools, Schweinhart said.

In Smithsburg High School's case, it would be the lack of technology.

School officials say the 765-student school, which has among the highest attendance and lowest dropout rates in the county, is without one of the necessities of providing a well-rounded education: A computer lab.

"We don't have anything, and here we are trying to get kids ready for after-high school," Principal Jeffrey Stouffer said.

Schweinhart, chair of the school's Citizens Advisory Committee, said teachers asked parents to help set up a fund-raising effort to buy computers for a lab.

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Parents and school officials last week sent out nearly 3,000 letters to Smithsburg-area residents and businesses asking for donations. Stouffer said the school hopes to raise $42,000 and have a computer lab ready for the next school year.

The letter asks for contributions of between $25 and $500, but donors can give as much as they want. Contributions are tax deductible.

The figure would buy 20 Gateway computers - five with CD burners - and wiring. The lab would be in the school's media center. Stouffer said the school has received about $2,000 in donations so far.

A typical classroom in the school has one computer, and the class must crowd around it when it is used for a lesson, he said.

Schweinhart said the computers the school uses are slow and are adequate only for such tasks as word processing.

Schweinhart said that while most processing speeds of home computers average between 500 and 900 megahertz, the processing speed of the school's computers are 233 megahertz. She said the school's computers do not have enough memory to run high-technology programs that are essential in classes such as science, math and English.

According to the letter sent to residents, the Smithsburg elementary and middle schools have quality equipment, but the high school cannot run the same programs because of the insufficient computers.

Stouffer and Schweinhart said fund-raising is the only way to come up with money for a lab.

They said the School Board doesn't have the money to contribute, and Schweinhart said the school doesn't qualify for certain state grants because it doesn't have a high percentage of low-income children.

"We're not blasting anybody," Stouffer said. "We're tired of sitting around, so we're doing it ourselves."

For more information, contact Smithsburg High School at 301-766-8337.

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