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Va. School for Deaf, Blind cutting pack on IT

Friday - 7/1/2011, 3:49pm  ET

STAUNTON, Va. - The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind is reducing computers and servers provided by the state government's privatized information technology service, citing high costs.

The school's directors have asked their IT specialist to reduce the school's computers and servers by approximately 75 percent. The goal is to trim the Virginia Information Technologies Agency's annual $350,000 bill by $150,000.

The school's directors said it was a case of either reducing computer costs, or cutting staff, according to media reports on Friday.

Superintendent Nancy Armstrong said the IT cuts will mean that the nearly 150 students and teachers will have to share 50 computers. Thirty-three computers are used for management purposes.

The school has removed all computers from classrooms and moved them into labs, where they will be shared by teachers and students.

No other public K-12 school or institution of higher learning is under VITA's umbrella. The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind is technically an agency, so it falls under VITA's umbrella.

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, has introduced legislation to exempt the school from the state's centralized computer network, which was not designed to meet the school's specialized education needs. He agreed to a delay of the legislation in hopes of working out a solution.

Thursday, he heard from frustrated board of visitors. Members of the 173-year-old school's board said students are being shortchanged.

John Pleasants, a board member and alumnus of the school's program for the blind, said he had received a call from a parent of a former student who was worried about the future of the computer programs.

"We're doing the best we can with reduced resources at present but we hope to change that as soon as possible," he said.

The school serves deaf and blind students from preschool to their early 20s on a campus that includes dormitory space.

Northrop Grumman has a $2.5 billion contract with VITA to run the state's computers.

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