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Letters to the Editors

Laptop plan too costly; other options may be better

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2000

Editor: Re: Laptop computers in schools:

So it looks like this misguided idea still has some life left in it.

Let's engage in some bureaucratic euthanasia and save taxpayers from having to subsidize not only this scheme, but also having to pay teachers to attend workshops, to pay instructors to teach parents and to eliminate ongoing maintenance costs associated with this program.

How? Glad you asked. Why doesn't the School Board do the following:

In an effort to make this as equitable as possible and give any student just as much access as any other student, spend the money destined for all the training programs above and buy more computers and increase the size of their computer labs. Many schools already either have large labs or computers in their libraries. With some creativity I am certain more computers can fit in those spaces.

Students could use them during study halls or after and before school. Teachers would monitor usage to ensure anything being viewed was related to school work. They could be vigilant for students surfing porn sites, doing personal e-mail, downloading from music sites (unless related to documented class work), playing games, etc.

The computers purchased do not have to be top of the line, either. The level and difficulty of the schoolwork at anything less than college level surely does not necessitate 600 MHz processors, more than 32 MB of RAM, DVD drives or video cards greater than 2 MB. Monitors need not be 17 inch, either. Costs can be cut and computers bought very, very cheaply. Don't let anyone tell you different. If they do, it's because the bureaucratic, ever-growing, self-propagating, vicious "must have top-of-the-line-products" cycle has begun. You can then kiss your tax dollars goodbye.

A simple, cheap machine will allow students to do virtually any required middle school research. Remember, these kids are not preparing theses for their master's degrees. A networked server loaded with reference works not already in book form in the school library (no sense duplicating costs as taxpayers already paid for expensive hard cover editions) should complete any requirement for this age group.

One caveat: all this needs to be done within current budget guidelines/proposals and without increases to solely support it.

Before the School Board gets too rambunctious, it would behoove them to remember that the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that Volusia County residents of adult-only retirement communities are not required to pay school impact fees. The precedent has been set. It can happen here, too.
-- Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

River would benefit from motorized watercraft ban

Editor: If motor-driven boats and water scooters were banned from the Weeki Wachee River, it would correct a number of existing problems such as quality of water, protection of the manatees and dangerous conditions resulting from watercraft traveling too fast and losing control.

The river should be restricted to non-motorized watercraft: canoes, kayaks, etc.

Twenty-five years ago, Lake Sacandaga in the Adirondack Mountain area in New York had dying fish, plant life, etc. They passed a law banning all gasoline-powered engines from the lake. Today, that lake is pristine. In fact, the state record walleyed pike was taken seven years ago and released.

The Weeki Wachee River is a gift to us; let's take care of it.
-- Charles Miller, Spring Hill

Road work should be completed more efficiently

Editor: The residents of our neighborhood are extremely concerned with the condition of our roads. Most of us have made calls about them, and everyone gets a different answer.

Earlier this year, all the streets off Landover in this area, with the exception of Morven, Bluffview, Blythe and Auburndale, were resurfaced. The equipment was already in the area; therefore, that should have been the time to complete the area. Is it not more expensive to have to bring back the equipment at taxpayers' expense?

We cannot even get them to repair the holes. The tax base for these streets has to be far greater than other streets with only one or two homes and a lot of vacant lots.

If we didn't pay our taxes, we would hear about it immediately. Are we not at least entitled to some concrete answers regarding the problem?

As individuals, we have to budget to cover our expenses. It seems there is a lack of concerted effort to stick to a plan and get things completed. Yet, they come up with a surplus they haggle over for months rather than using funds to get these urgent things done.

We need answers and action now.
-- Roma McGuire, Spring Hill

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