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What'll it be? Mac or PC?

South Whidbey Intermediate School students will be getting a new computer lab later this spring. Technology teacher John LaVassar helps a fifth grade class fine tune their computer skills by accessing the World Book Encyclopedia online to study Africa. - Gayle Saran
South Whidbey Intermediate School students will be getting a new computer lab later this spring. Technology teacher John LaVassar helps a fifth grade class fine tune their computer skills by accessing the World Book Encyclopedia online to study Africa.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

They've got the money. Now it's time to answer the tough question: Mac or PC?

This week, the South Whidbey Board of Education approved funds for the purchase of new computers for the South Whidbey Intermediate School computer lab. The equipment is expected to cost between $37,000 to $48,000 and will include 30 computers.

Third, fourth and fifth graders are expected to be working on new computers with the latest software and accessories before the end of the school year. For many students at the school, this will mean they will be working in class on machines younger than they are for the first time.

"Currently, all the computers in the lab are older Macs dating back to the 1980s and early 1990s," said Brian Miller, the school district's technology manager.

Throughout the district, there are about 998 computers in use in the district's four larger school buildings. This number includes computers in labs, offices and classrooms.

The 30 computers currently in the intermediate school lab, all Macintoshes, will be moved to the primary school and into the classrooms.

Miller said it is time to replace many of these computers.

"Quite a few of these don't meet standards," he said Monday while pitching the computer purchase to the school board. "Many of them don't have CD drives and about 300 of them are older Macs that aren't made anymore."

Now with the school board's blessing, Miller and intermediate school staff need to choose their machines. Buying PCs would cost between $40,550 and $43,083, Miller said, while an all-Mac lab could range between $36,670 and $47,068.

All options include a network laser printer, four scanners, five digital cameras and a video projector. The more pricey options include a film scanner and color laster printer.

All configurations include the word processing, desktop publishing and photo processing software.

Miller said a committee will be formed to decide which configuration should be purchased for the new lab.

Moving the existing computers to the primary school will be an update in some cases because students there are using Mac Classics in most cases. Those machines date back 12 to 15 years.

Updating the computer labs has been is part of the district's technology plan. The labs at South Whidbey High School and Langley Middle School were updated during the last two years.

School board director Helen Price-Johnson supported the purchase and the district's aim to bring all its computer resources up to date.

"It would be great to get to the point where everyone in the district could open up the same e-mail attachment," she said.

The purchase will be funded out of the district's capital funds budget.

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