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Hernando schools selling old PCs for recycling

BROOKSVILLE — With one vote Tuesday, the Hernando County School Board may put a great many computers out to pasture.

More than 1,400 machines — plus assorted monitors, projectors, switches and other gizmos — have passed into obsolescence and need to be recycled, officials say. The entire technological pile is expected to fetch $7,000 if it is sold to Creative Recycling Systems of Tampa.

"Most of them are 2003 and older," said Jeanne Leftwich, the district's property control and warehouse manager. "The board (previously) approved that all computer hardware would go through recycling."

Last fall, the district embarked upon a top-to-bottom overhaul of its computer technology program, leasing more than 11,000 Dell computers in a four-year, $8.1-million deal.

That brought a lot of smiles, but also a few protests from the handful of schools that had committed to incompatible Apple Computer products. Parents at Suncoast Elementary said perfectly good Macintosh laptops donated by their School Advisory Committee would be removed.

But Hernando officials said those schools were eventually allowed to keep their old computers, with the understanding that they wouldn't get any assistance for them from overstretched technology aides.

"If it was marked 'Do not remove,' it wasn't removed," said Melissa Harts, the district's technology director. "But they had to know those Macs weren't going to be supported."

Around 1,500 newer computers purchased before the Dell agreement will be redistributed to schools, with a third going to schools that purchased them with federal aid dollars, she said.

Of the computers to be recycled, around 90 were purchased in 2003 or 2004. But officials say they can't be sold piecemeal to families or donated to organizations.

Under state law, they must be offered in a public sale if they're offered at all. And such sales haven't gone well in the past, with some machines getting improperly dumped. Computers and monitors contain toxic chemicals, and their disposal is regulated by state and federal laws.

"When we would sell them to Joe Public, we had no idea what happened to those," Leftwich said. "They'd end up in the landfill. We'd get calls from the police department that there were computers laying out in a pasture that were ours, that we had sold."

The School Board will take up the matter Tuesday at its 7 p.m. meeting at 919 North Broad St.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando schools selling old PCs for recycling 12/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:08pm]
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