School tries to stretch life span of its computers | AspenTimes.com

School tries to stretch life span of its computers

John Colson

Aspen High School sophomore Chase Vanderpol works at a computer Wednesday during a Microsoft Office class in the computer lab. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen school officials are conducting an experiment with the computer labs at Aspen High School – they’re seeing if the computers will last a year longer than consultants predict and the budget anticipates.The result, according to AHS Principal Charlie Anastas, is that there are a few bum computers at school this year but not enough that it’s a real problem yet.”They’re trying to stretch it out to save money,” the principal said recently, explaining that the hope is that the hardware can “get through another year” without crashing and burning.”It’s a little too early to tell” if the experiment is working out, he said recently, adding that the high school now has about 171 laptops still in good working order out of the 250 computers it bought nearly five years ago with proceeds from a “technology” bond sale.He said a new class this year, on ACT and SAT testing, calls for the division of 20 computers among the students. The class had only 10 computers to work with earlier in the semester, “so we have some things to work out,” he said.Superintendent Diana Sirko confirmed that the district is expecting a “refresh cycle” of the high school’s 250 or so computers next summer, although the original schedule was to buy the new “carts,” which are lots of 25 computers, every four years, starting last summer.

The first replacement cycle for the computers at AHS was to take place in the summer of 2006, but the district opted to try to hang on for another year before spending the $400,000 it will take to buy the new hardware.

“And that may be too long,” Sirko admitted, although her assistant superintendent, Bev Tarpley, said in a separate interview, “I’m working on a computer that’s five years old, and it’s doing just fine.”Tarpley also maintained that the Aspen district has “more technology, I can tell you, than most school districts do.”

Both Sirko and Anastas said that if it appears a shortage of computers is hampering the educational process at the high school, the district will take action.”If we feel that it’s going to cause such a problem, we’ll do something,” Anastas said, adding, “I feel that we can wait. We’re trying to make it work both ways [fiscally as well as educationally].”Among the options, if the experiment seems to be causing problems, would be buying some portion of the total replacement number right away, a contingency Sirko said the budget for this school year could cover.

Sirko said the district stands to save $250,000 on its computer-buying budget if it can switch the schools to a five-year cycle, noting that the cost of buying new hardware is $250,000 each for Aspen Elementary and Aspen Middle School.But, Sirko concluded, “If it looks like it’s going to be a total jam for everybody, and the computers don’t hold up, we’ll put it in our plan that it should be a four-year cycle.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com