Dire predictions of chaos notwithstanding, it appears that proper planning—and millions of dollars spent in upgrades and labor—have paid off for the nation’s schools, as computer systems hum along despite the threat of Y2K-induced malfunction.

Overall, the nation’s schools have emerged largely unscathed from the turn of the century, according to school officials around the country as well as a preliminary survey conducted by the U. S. Department of Education (ED).

Of the 51 elementary and secondary schools that participated in the survey, 100 percent reported that all systems and infrastructures were operational after Jan. 1, 2000.

Eight percent reported that they had delayed school openings as a planned Y2K precaution, and a mere 2 percent reported minor Y2K problems that were quickly resolved.

For example, one district reported that one of its 35 water heaters had to be turned on manually; one reported that 3 workstations displayed incorrect dates; and one district reported a problem in student services on an older machine.

Over the past few years, educators and private-sector companies alike have been scrambling to update old computer systems, which were not equipped to handle the change of date from 1999 to 2000. Computer experts feared that many older computers would read the new date as Jan. 1, 1900, thereby causing serious problems with all fiscal transactions and other date-sensitive information.

The so-called “millennium bug” didn’t cripple the Simi Valley Unified School District in California, according to a report by the Ventura County Star.

After an extra week of winter vacation, during which educators hoped to sort through any complications arising from the year 2000, students returned from the holiday without incident. “Everything seems to be fine. It’s very uneventful,” Cary Dritz, assistant superintendent of personnel services, told the Star.

In addition to problems with school information services, officials at Simi Valley anticipated a possible malfunction of fuel pumps, which would have disabled school buses and hindered transportation. School officials also feared a failure in refrigeration systems, causing school cafeteria food to spoil. But it appears their fears were unfounded.

Teachers and administrators at Hyde Park Elementary School in Jacksonville, Fla., also breathed a sigh of relief when they came back from winter break to discover it was business as usual, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Robert Monahan, regional technology coordinator for Duval County Schools, said a new software program designed to prevent any Y2K complications and installed across Duval County Schools was a success.

Technology specialists from across the county tested every school computer system, starting with area high schools, but did not find any problems, the Times-Union reported.

An October 1999 survey by ED and the National School Boards Association estimated that 96 percent of the nation’s public schools would be fully compliant by Jan. 1, 2000. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed also added that they would have a contingency plan in place before the new year.

Officials feared there could be significant problems for some of the estimated four percent of schools that would not be fully Y2K-compliant. So far, however, no major problems have been reported.

Given the hype surrounding the Y2K crisis—and the fact that it seems to have passed not with a bang, but a whimper—were schools wise to have invested the money they did to protect their computer systems? Absolutely, said Trevor Shaw, director of technology for St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey and eSchool News information technology columnist.

When asked if he thought the Y2K crisis was a legitimate threat or a fabrication of doomsday forecasters and the news media, Shaw replied, “I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

“Were there any real dangers? Absolutely,” he continued. “Probably not the danger of things shutting off like a switch all over the country. But the amount of money we had to spend was necessary, or there could have been severe disruptions in services otherwise.”

U. S. Department of Education’s Y2K site
http://www.ed.gov/y2k

Simi Valley Unified School District
http://www.simi.k12.ca.us

Duval County Schools
http://www.duval.k12.fl.us

St. Benedict’s Preparatory School
http://www.sbp.org