Survey: Districts Still Not Prepared For Year 2000 Glitch

By Andrew Trotter — September 08, 1999 1 min read

Most school districts still have a lot to do to get ready for the infamous Year 2000 computer glitch, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Only 28 percent of the more than 3,500 districts that responded to a nationwide survey last spring said they had completed the renovation and testing of their “mission critical” computer systems to make them “Y2K compliant,” the Education Department said in releasing the results on Aug. 27.

The Y2K “bug” refers to a programming error that could make some computers prone to miscalculations or other failures on Jan. 1, 2000.

Mission-critical systems were defined by each district, but generally include key financial and emergency systems, student registration, attendance, grading, and bus scheduling, said Kent Hannaman, a senior management analyst at the department and the manager of the survey project.

Ninety-eight percent of the districts that responded said their mission-critical systems would be ready by Jan. 1, when the computer bug could cause malfunctions in computer systems worldwide. Seventy-eight percent of districts said all their key systems would be ready by October.

Districts said their chief hurdles in preparing for the glitch have been inadequate personnel, insufficient time, and inadequate funding.

Failures in noncritical systems--including, in some cases, software or computers used for instruction--could also cause hassles.

As of last spring, only 14 percent of the responding districts had all of their systems Y2K-ready, the survey found.

Follow-Up Survey

The school districts submitted their survey responses either on paper or to a World Wide Web site between mid-March
and June 4.

The department sent out a follow-up survey to 1,200 randomly selected districts last week with the results expected by the end of this month.

Surprisingly, when department officials analyzed the responses using other federal data, they found no significant differences in Y2K preparedness based on the districts’ enrollment, character as urban or rural, the student poverty level, or region of the country.

“You would think the poorer school districts would be worse off due to the barriers and problems they face,” but that was not the case, Mr. Hannaman said.

Regardless of preparations, he added, many district officials plan to take the precaution of closing their schools on the first one or two school days in the new year.