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Schools take a lesson in Y2K preparation

The federal government is giving school districts across the country a lesson on the Year 2000 technology problem.

The federal government is giving school districts across the country a lesson on the Year 2000 technology problem.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council of the Great City Schools have completed a Y2K compliance guide for K-12 schools and school districts to be mailed to school districts this week and next, according to the council.

TheBack to Year 2000 Index Page guide, entitled "Squashing the Millennium Bug," is being sent to more than 15,000 districts in the country to help the nation's elementary/secondary schools and school districts address their Year 2000 problems.

"The information contained in this guide is not intended to provide a complete solution to the Y2K problem but hopefully help those who read it to understand, break down, and address the problem effectively and efficiently," the council explains in the guide.

Although the federal government does not directly provide funding to school districts to fix Y2K problems, the Department of Education is trying to do everything it can to help local and state schools ready their computer systems for Y2K, said David Dexter, a staff member with the department's Year 2000 Project Team.

"We've had a working relationship with CGCS for months now in two areas," said Dexter. "One was to have them conduct a survey of all the city school districts to see where they are on Y2K. The second was the guide."

With the survey, the government found that the nation's school districts varied in how far they how much progress they've made in addressing the Y2K technology problem.

"Schools are all over the map. Some are close and some are not," he said.

According to the survey, which is part of the guide, 32 percent of the school districts surveyed hadn't even written a plan down for achieving Y2K compliance, and only 20 percent had completed assessing the status of their computer systems.

Only 2 percent of those surveyed said they had completed renovating their systems, and none had completed validating whether their systems were renovated correctly.

The survey spoke to 41 city school districts, including those in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Tucson. Although the survey only included the city school districts covered by CGCS, it gives an idea of how the major school districts are progressing in their Y2K remediation.

The guide is an attempt by the Department of Education and City Schools to lend a helping hand to the districts as the limited time between now and 2000 decreases.

"It is late in coming," said Mark Root, manager of technology and information services at CGCS. "We wanted to get it out in December, but wanted to get the printed version together," before it was announced.

The guide is for anyone within the school district administration interested in the issue and breaks down the issue into specific areas. It defines the problem, explains the different phases of the compliance process--awareness, assessment, remediation, and verification.

It also explains and walks the reader through remediation as it applies to PCs, software, in-house applications, LANs and labs, office equipment, communications, and embedded devices.

Dexter said there are numerous ways in which a school district can be affected by the Year 2000. A crashed or malfunctioning payroll system within a school can be a "major problem." It can hit 401K, insurance, and pay for staff and administration.

He also said transcripts and report cards for students can be affected by Y2K as well, spelling disaster for juniors and seniors applying to colleges. Another area is in the cafeteria where refrigeration and cash registers are all computerized. Transportation schedules are automated as well, he added.

After disseminating the guide to education associations and other federal agencies, the Department of Education and CGCS plan to hold focus groups with elementary schools and districts in the coming months, Dexter said.

The first is on February 25 in Washington DC for the Mid Atlantic Region. "We want to see where they are and where they are going [with their Y2K efforts.]"