The Arlington School Board will reconsider a plan for allocating computers to the system's 19 elementary schools in response to complaints from parents who say they had too little time to comment on it.
The parents also complained that the plan would "penalize" schools whose parent-teacher associations had already purchased computers.
The proposal to introduce computer study into the elementary schools, approved on a 3-to-1 vote with one abstention on Nov. 15, calls for purchasing 77 Apple IIe computers. The board decided to take into account any Apple computers already in the schools, adding computers until each school has six and allocating the remaining machines according to the size of the school.
According to the plan, more computers would be added in subsequent years until there is one in each classroom.
Since the plan was approved, the School Board has received several letters from PTAs and civic associations criticizing it and asking the board to clarify its policy regarding equipment that PTAs purchase for schools.
Some have argued it is unfair for a school such as Taylor Elementary, whose PTA raised money to buy five Apple IIe computers, to end up with the same number of computers as a school whose PTA bought one.
More important, they say, PTA incentive to buy innovative equipment for their schools will be dampened if they know the School Board intends to add such equipment to all schools.
"We urge you to reconsider and modify your decision so that no school will be penalized for leadership," said a letter from Fred Wood, president of the Donaldson Run Civic Association and parent of a Taylor second-grader. "If some schools and PTAs want to augment the schoolwide standard by purchasing additional computers (or software or other learning opportunities), that should be encouraged, not discouraged," the letter continued.
Board member Dorothy H. Stambaugh, who proposed at the Nov. 15 meeting that existing Apple computers be taken into account when the 77 new computers are allocated, declared later that parents had not had enough time to comment on the issue. She said she had requested that it be added to the agenda of the Dec. 6 board meeting "so people have the opportunity to address that issue and perhaps try to persuade the School Board" to modify the plan.
Stambaugh said she is concerned about "the issue of basic, overall instructional equality throughout the system."
"The actual plan wasn't in front of citizens," agreed School Board Chairwoman Gail H. Nuckols. "What the School Board is willing to do is put it back on the agenda -- to open up discussion of the allocation issue again and see if we can come to some compromise."
Stambaugh said she had received several telephone calls supporting the allocation plan, and Conchita Mitchell, president of the County Council of PTAs, said that many PTA members "are somewhat themselves divided on the issue." Perhaps one answer to the quandary, she said, is that PTAs must continually press the School Board and the County Board to allocate money for equipment that is considered crucial for all students.