Schools work to combat Y2K bug

By Susan DiMauro Record-Courier staff writer Published:

When the clock ticks over to Jan. 1, 2000, computer hardware and software that cannot deal with the new four-digit date are predicted to either shut down cold or make a mess of their processes.

What will actually happen, no one knows.

Dave Forman is the site administrator at the Northeast Ohio Network for Educational Technology, a main-frame network company in Cuyahoga Falls that serves Kent schools and 17 Summit County school districts. He said Y2K poses a huge threat but efforts are being made to combat it.

"It potentially could stop payrolls, grade cards, environmental systems like heating and cooling, grocery delivery in lunchrooms," he said. "The Ohio Department of Education created a task force to assist with tackling this. And we've met with technical coordinators and have been audited by the state to get our accounting and student software in compliance."

Forman said school districts must make sure outside suppliers, including security system companies, are updated and compliant with new standards.

Greg Seibert, manager of network services at Kent State University, said a task force is surveying the computer and technological equipment on campus.

"We've been facing the problem for a couple of years," he said. "Most difficulties have been eliminated already by updating software, and most of the computers are new PCs and are renewed every three years. Some PCs will be used as terminals, so we'll just set the clocks back because the date doesn't matter for what they're used for."

Seibert said embedded controls for utilities and physical plant services need to change and federal agencies, such as those that provide financial aid, must be updated.

"There will probably be minor outages, but I don't buy into the gloom and doomery," he said. "But we as an institution do not have total control over the problem."

At the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, a process of checking the compliance of computers is in place.

Joseph Aulino, associate dean for Information and Education Technology at NEOUCOM, said after an inventory is taken, the computers that may not work in 2000 will be fixed or replaced and tested.

"And we'll be contacting the vendors and suppliers, such as the electric company, to make sure everything is in place," he said. "No company completely controls this. I can't say there will be no problem because we can't mitigate every problem ourselves. We just need to do the best we can."

Aulino said the Y2K problem is a serious issue because almost everything contains computer chips.

"Some chips are not going to work in 2000," he said. "But some people are overreacting to this. As long as we tend to it, we'll be fine."

Forman said further efforts to combat the computer disaster will be made during the following year.

"We won't have any life-threatening situations, but we'll have to work around the problems and nuisances at the very least," he said. "I feel good about the efforts so far. We started along the road during the summer, but this process will continue through the next year.

"I feel confident we can get this done," Forman said. "I'm almost certain there will be some problems, but they won't put students in danger or get in the way of teaching. There will be problems with other things, like getting money out of the ATM."

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