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SCHOOL BOARD WEIGHS TECHNOLOGY BOND ISSUE

The Eden Central School District is eyeing a technology bond issue with a potential cost of nearly $5 million to fund an extensive computer network among its three buildings that would put computers in classrooms and offer advanced learning tools.

The School Board will meet in special session at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria of Eden Junior-Senior High School for an official presentation by the district's Technology Subcommittee, which is recommending major technology improvements throughout the schools.

Although the report has yet to be disclosed publicly, sources say the bond issue would be a large one -- close to $5 million. The actual bond amount, however, depends on how the board ultimately structures -- or possibly modifies -- the recommended program and computer network. The cost would depend on how much state aid might be available to apply toward the project.

The cost probably will fall between $2 million and $5 million, said School Board President Gail E. Waldeck. "Initially, it is not cheap, but down the road, it gets more expensive" if it is not done now.

"If you want to prepare kids for the 21st century, you need to give the kids the tools," Waldeck said. "We need to do this for the kids."

The committee made up of parents, teachers and some School Board members has studied the issue for nearly four years, and the School Board last June hired Habiterra Associates, a Jamestown-based architectural firm, for the project.

"The committee put together a very realistic package that will put us into the 21st century," said Superintendent Thomas Christopher.

The project was described last summer as a "gigantic" one for the district. To implement the plan, which is not limited to computers, school buildings would need to be modified and wiring improved to accommodate the computer network, in addition to having adequate security in place.

Several board members already say they believe it is an essential project for Eden schools, despite the cost.

"It's an expensive item, but technology is a huge area. It's not just computers," said School Board member Susan G. Cardamone.

"I'm hoping it will be a positive thing," Mrs. Cardamone said. "There's no question it's costly, but if you want to do it right, you need to project what we'll need. We'll have to sell it to the community, just like a building project."

Board Member Jocelyn S. Bos says the project fits in with implementing the higher standards of learning being imposed by the state Board of Regents.

Board member Harry F. Rudy said he is concerned the bond issue will be "a tough sell" to the community, depending on the final price tag. "I don't know how this will go, but I know it will be tough to go to the community and ask for more money," he said.

But Rudy said he believes that students can be "very justly served by computer technology."

"I feel we really need to get updated. We're a small school (district), but we still have to compete in the whole world," Waldeck said.

If the School Board accepts the project, a bond issue probably would be put before voters in the next three to four months, Waldeck said. Plans call for phasing the project in over three years.

Last May, voters in the Orchard Park School District defeated a $19 million building and technology bond issue that called for a long-range technology plan.

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