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Many schools failing in Y2K preparation

A large number of the nation's schools are failing to prepare for the Year 2000 problem, according to a survey released this week.

    A large number of the nation's schools are failing to prepare for the Year 2000 problem, according to a survey released this week.

    John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Y2K Conversion, cited an Education Department survey showing that more than one-third of elementary and secondary school districts and post-secondary institutions are not yet fully Year 2000 compliant. Koskinen called on the nation's schools to redouble their efforts to prepare their computers for the technology glitch.

    "Schools are no different from businesses or government agencies in terms of needing to prepare. While the substantial progress that has been made in the past few months is encouraging, there are still too many schools that are not yet Y2K ready--and time is running out," Koskinen said at a press conference yesterday.

    Responding to two national follow-up surveys on American education's Y2K readiness sponsored by the Education Department, only 64 percent of school districts and 61 percent of post-secondary institutions said all their mission critical systems are Y2K compliant.

    The figures indicate significant progress compared to surveys this summer which showed only 28 percent of the school districts and 30 percent of the post-secondary institutions indicating full Y2K compliance. However, Koskinen said with just two months to go before the century date change schools need to concentrate on fixing and independently testing their systems.

    "Schools continue to make progress in their Y2K efforts, but I'm concerned because many don't expect to be fully Y2K compliant until the final couple of months of 1999, leaving little room for testing or for any slippage in their schedules," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in a statement. "Clearly, our schools need to give very serious attention to Y2K business continuity and contingency planning."

    The Y2K problem, often called the millennium bug, is rooted in the way dates are recorded and computed. For the past several decades, systems programmers have typically used two digits to represent the year in order to conserve memory. With this two-digit format, however, the year 2000 is indistinguishable from 1900, or 2001 from 1901. Many IT executives, analysts, and government officials warn that the glitch could cause everything from failed cash registers and airline travel interruptions to possible power outages.

    "No school is alone in tackling the Y2K issue," said Koskinen. "Schools often operate important systems and programs that are being used by businesses and other institutions across the country. The technical information for solving problems is out there, the question is making a commitment to getting the job done."