Popular wisdom has it that today’s children are more computer-savvy than adults. That assumption is being tested at Center Elementary School in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, where a young expert is about to take on the dreaded “Y2K” computer bug.
The Mayfield district has hired Brian Hug, a 5th grader at the 457-student school, to install software on the equipment in the school’s computer lab to make sure it’s protected against any havoc that could ensue if computers are unable to recognize the year 2000 come next Jan. 1.
The district will pay the 11-year-old the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, for an average of two to five hours a week.
But while some see this as an opportunity for Brian to broaden his interests in computers, others have expressed concerns.
“I don’t think solving the Y2K problem is child’s play,” said Amy Feran, a school board member who opposed the boy’s hiring. “We’ve never hired a child, and I believe that it would violate child-labor laws to do so.”
And the manufacturer of the school’s computers has a technician to make sure that the computers are in compliance with Y2K standards--the same job that Brian was hired for, she said.
“It is unusual,” acknowledged Superintendent Phil Price. But, he added, the boy’s talent and interest stood out to teachers, who recommended that he given more responsibility in the computer lab.
Barbara Metcalf has a great sense of humor.
When the history teacher had her prized globe stolen from her classroom in late January, she didn’t get upset. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even report the theft to administrators at the 1,400-student West Fargo (N.D.) High School.
A few weeks later, Ms. Metcalf began receiving photographs of her basketball-size globe. The pictures were taken in various places: on the front steps of her house, on an apple display at a grocery store, at a nearby bowling alley, with a local television news crew, and on top of a garbage bin.
The nail-biting ordeal came to an end last month, when her prized possession was delivered by a Theodore Roosevelt impersonator who burst into her classroom. He said: “You have brought them the world. They want to do the same for you.”
Dan Harbeke, one of Ms. Metcalf’s Advanced Placement history students, finally admitted to being the 16-year-old mastermind behind the prank.
--Marnie Roberts & Karen L. Abercrombie
A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 1999 edition of Education Week as Take Note