KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Students and teachers in a central Missouri school district recently received a gift from the federal government in the form of free computer equipment.
Last week, Rich Hinkel, district technology coordinator for the Newburg R2 School District, rented a truck and drove 230 miles from Newburg, Missouri, to a former federal warehouse complex in Kansas City, Mo., that once sorted the personal belongings of soldiers killed during World War II to pick up a cache of donated computer equipment. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Region VII Operations Support Division donated the equipment under a federal program that makes excess computer equipment available to schools or non-profit organizations.
The computers, Hinkel said, are just what the students need to learn basic computing, use the Internet for research and to work on projects. He said he jumped at the chance to get computer equipment that had an original value of more than $194,000.
"We're a small school district," Hinkel said. "It's hard for us to get anything."
Hinkel said his district has an annual technology budget of about $4,000 so he has learned how to sniff out low-cost computer deals. Other sources in the past have included the U.S. Geological Survey in nearby Rolla and the Ford Motor Co.
Much of the budget goes to paying for Internet connections and to replace or repair equipment. To further stretch his budget, Hinkel said he would use some of the old FEMA computers as spare parts when doing repairs.
"We're competing with the larger school districts with larger funding," he said.
Pat Dardis, logistics management specialist for Region VII, said authority for the donation of the equipment, primarily central processing units, printers, hubs and switches, comes from Executive Order 12999. Signed in April 1996 and titled, "Educational Technology: Ensuring Opportunity for All Children in the Next Century," its goal is to help school districts acquire computer equipment they otherwise couldn't afford.
The regional office must first offer excess equipment to other FEMA facilities to determine if there is a need for it elsewhere in the agency. After 14 days the property was then reported as excess to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), who in turn advertised it to other federal agencies, state agencies and school districts, such as Newburg, in the region. Dardis said he has already received another request for equipment from ...