Schools expect glitches from last-minute fixes

While the nation's education community is only minimally concerned about the Year 2000 problem, schools do expect some glitches, particularly because of the last-minute fixes many schools are making, according to federal, state and local experts testifying before a Senate panel Tuesday.

In a survey of the largest school districts in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, nearly half the schools projected finishing their Year 2000 work on Nov. 30 or later, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

Marshall Smith, acting deputy secretary at the U.S. Education Department, said he was concerned with the late completion date many schools have established for Year 2000 fixes because it leaves little time for testing.

But Smith, testifying before the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, said he was more concerned with schools' embedded systems, such as those that run heating and air conditioning equipment, elevators and security systems.

"There are more embedded chips than people realize," Smith said. "I don't want to be alarmist, but there are a number of areas that are particularly vulnerable."

Smith also noted that very few schools have used independent sources to verify compliance, which he called "very disturbing."

But most witnesses agreed that, while problems may occur, most glitches would be similar to that of a snowstorm and could be corrected in a short period of time. Many schools nationwide are opening later in January to ensure that all their systems are up and running in the new year.

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