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Santa brings computers to SWHS

Santa Claus came early this year to South Whidbey High School. The white-bearded gift giver dropped off 29 new personal computers for the school's new lab.

At least that's the story the school district is sticking to.

Santa Claus is actually a generous but anonymous South Whidbey couple, who donated $45,000 for the purchase of the personal computers. The result is a newly configured computer lab.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and teachers," said Superintendent Martin Laster. "For students to have access to a place and to teachers who can help them achieve their goals, it's a wonderful synergy."

The donation came through the South Whidbey Schools Foundation. Dan Blanton, the district's assistant superintendent, said the gift shows how South Whidbey residents feel about local schools.

"The gift is an example, along with the passage of the levy, of the tremendous support the schools receive from the community," Blanton said.

The district's technology director, Brian Miller, is in the final stages of connecting and installing new software in the donated PCs, completing Internet hookups and connecting scanners. The lab will open for student use by March 25.

The lab's primary function is for use after school and during the school day for special projects.

"The lab will not be used for regular classes but reserved for use by teachers who want to bring their entire classroom in to do electronic research or word processing," Laster said. "We also hope to make it available to the community."

Much of the lab's use will occur after school hours, during the high school's new Extended Day Program. Similar to a program at Langley Middle School, it allows students to use the computers for projects and homework, and gives them time to get some after-school tutoring.

"This will be a great to benefit to students who are struggling in the areas of math and language arts or who want more time to work on homework and projects," said high school principal Mike Johnson.

Miller himself will be on hand to assist students with improving their technology skills in the new lab, while and Mike Crebbins and Greg Ballog will be available to provide math tutoring. Kathy Stanley, a primary school teacher, will assist students with language arts.

The computer donation came after a meeting between Laster and the philanthropic couple.

"They asked me to put out a proposal, it was fine tuned, and new computers are the result," Laster said. "They really deserve our honor and appreciation for this outstanding gift that will benefit students and the community into the future. I wish we could name them."

Money for the teachers and other costs of the program came through Initiative 728. South Whidbey received $423,000 for the 2001-02 school year. That's about $194 per full-time student, which will rise to $220 in the next two years.

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