IRVINE : Board Moves Toward School Computer Ties

The Irvine Unified School District has taken the first step in creating a computer link between all its schools by approving a $1-million technology plan.

By proceeding with the first phase of a master technology plan, the school board will be reviving its $7-million Foundations for the Future plan, abandoned in the wake of the county's bankruptcy a year ago.

Irvine Unified was the biggest school district investor in the collapsed Orange County pool.

"This says that we truly are making progress away from the pain of the bankruptcy" school board President Mary Ellen Hadley said at Tuesday night's board meeting. "We're moving ahead."

The district's estimated $10-million loss from $96 million invested in the county pool forced a $2-million budget cut and the layoff of 40 district employees.

Teachers and district officials have yet to agree on a new contract, but the $1-million cost of the technology plan is funded by one-time state grant money that cannot be used for teacher salaries.

"One of the goals of teachers has been to upgrade technology in the district," said Irvine Teachers Assn. President Steve Garretson. "We're pleased to see this move forward."

The school district will use the funds to establish a local area network, linking school offices, media centers and classroom computer centers within local schools. The plan also includes the creation of a wide area network to establish computer links between all district schools. Irvine Unified Supt. Dennis Smith said the networks should be up and running by the end of summer.

"There's such a vast amount of information out there, we want our students to be able to sort through it, digest it and internalize it so they can use it to answer a central question and present their point of view," Smith said. "We are not just putting software in a box."

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