As school districts tighten their technology budgets, some educators are finding new ways to keep pace with the unabated need for computers in schools.

In spite of a tight budget, the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District in New York, recently pumped hundreds of new computers into its schools through a unique refurbishing program that features used, brand-name PCs for a fraction of the cost of new machines.

Through a deal with Canadian-based CDI Computer Dealers Inc., officials at Jordan-Elbridge purchased 364 Compaq desktops for between $150 and $250 per machine, prices that translated into nearly $300,000 in savings for the district and helped the school system jump from 42nd in the region in terms of technology access to among the top 10.

“CDI provided us with a way to purchase a large number of high-quality computers at an extremely affordable price,” said district technology coordinator Clark Smith. “For our district, buying refurbished computers has been a better alternative than purchasing a smaller number of new systems.”

Before entering into its relationship with CDI, Jordan-Elbridge, a district of more than 1,800 students and 300 staff members, had less than 60 networked computers and internet access in only 11 percent of its classrooms. Among the 170 computers in use across the district were such relics as the Apple IIe and its aging cousin, the Apple LCII. What’s more, most computers lacked the protection of anti-virus software, and eMail was a scarce commodity among staff members and missing completely for students.

But all that changed, report Jordan-Elbridge administrators, when the district discovered a cost-effective refurbishing effort.

Unlike other refurbishing programs, which have been criticized for using generic parts and employing unqualified technicians—including prison inmates and students—to clean, scrub, and repurpose these second-hand machines, CDI promises to deliver only brand-name PCs and hires a staff of 40 A+ certified technicians to oversee the refurbishing process from the point of initial inspection to packaging and delivery, said company sales manager Saar Pikar.

In fact, the company feels so strongly about the quality of its product that it offers a three-year warranty on every used machine it ships to schools.

Quality, Pikar contends, is one the company’s foremost concerns. Of the 15,000 computers CDI takes on from leasing agreements and corporate donations each month, only about 12,000 make it past the company’s screening process and into the hands of school customers.

CDI says it ships more than 4,000 PCs into the U.S. each month and that its client base consists of more than 2,000 schools across the country.

Once the machines have been delivered, the company continues its relationship with customers by offering setup, integration, maintenance, and troubleshooting services. However, most of these services are farmed out to outside companies, Pikar said, and additional fees generally apply.

The company also offers what it calls a “hot spot” program in which it will provide schools with 20 to 50 additional machines up front, at no extra cost, to serve as backups in the event that a computer goes down or has to be sent back. That way, Pikar said, technology directors can replace a machine instantly, with minimal disruption to classroom activities.

CDI says it will work to preload any applications or software as specified by the district, though Pikar said most of the company’s school clients opt to carry out this process on their own so they can take advantage of special, education-only pricing deals. CDI can offer licenses only at the standard market price.

The company also just recently announced a partnership with NetSupport, a manufacturer of school network administration software, to resell NetSupport School Version 7.0 on all of CDI’s refurbished machines.

Back in Jordan-Elbridge, educators now say they are able to provide 100-percent internet access at every computer on the network, and they have achieved a student-to-computer ratio of 3 to 1. Every classroom in the district is now online. That’s a far cry from the one in every 10 students who could claim computer access when the project began not more than two years ago.

Budgets still are tight, but Jordan-Elbridge educators report—at least when it comes to computers—they now are making the most of their scarce resources.

Links:

Jordan-Elbridge Central School District
http://www.jecsd.org

CDI
http://www.cdihomeroom.com