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PC buying power on schools' horizon

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County School Board is ready to sign a $50-million agreement with Compaq Computer next week that will allow parents, teachers and students to buy new and used computers for personal use at discounted rates.

People could buy the computers beginning in May through a toll-free number or Compaq's Web site, said Diana Richie, a manager with the company's school programs. Savings range from 4 to 6 percent on desktop PCs and from 7 to 9 percent on portable computers. The computers would come with a one-year warranty.

In addition, they would be able to buy refurbished computers, costing between $400 and $500, said Michael Bookman, assistant superintendent for business and research.

On Tuesday, board members reviewed the contract, considered a rarity for the district and the Houston-based company because of its length and exclusivity.

Under the agreement, Compaq will supply the district with computers and provide maintenance and training. Currently, the district pays about $1,186 per computer. With Compaq, it will pay about $858, a 28 percent reduction.

"It's a significant savings to the district," Bookman said.

Board members gushed about how it will streamline the district's hodgepodge of computers and possibly allow poor families to buy computers who otherwise could not afford them, thus eliminating the "digital divide."

"Truly, I think it's phenomenal," said board member Jack Lamb.

The school district chose Compaq over Dell Computer, IBM and Gateway.

The School Board will vote on the five-year contract at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the School Board Building, 901 E Kennedy Blvd.

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