How Long Is Too Long?

A sensible replacement cycle can save your district money.

The life span of technology equipment is about three to five years. Many districts struggle with decisions about how long to keep equipment, what to do with old equipment, and how to establish a realistic replacement cycle. Of course, the issue of cost is always a factor; aging equipment can be expensive to maintain. Here are a few examples of how some districts are addressing these issues.

How long should districts keep equipment?

Many districts postpone the inevitable by stretching the replacement cycle to five or six years through equipment rotation. New equipment is placed in labs or secondary classrooms and then rotated down through grade levels until the technology is obsolete. Although this strategy ensures that labs are up-to-date and that older students have access to new equipment, it may have a negative impact on how technology is used with younger students. One possible solution is to place newer equipment in classrooms and use older machines as workstations in thin client labs.

What do you do with old equipment?

Making old equipment available to the public for little or no cost is one option. Under the right circumstances, it can benefit families that might not be able to afford to purchase a computer. However, it can also become a community-relations nightmare. Equipment released for sale should still be useable and maintainable. The district must be certain that all sensitive data has been completely removed from hard drives. A few districts even sweeten the pie by installing free open-source applications on the hard drives.

How do you establish a realistic replacement cycle?

Districts routinely lease copiers but shy away from leasing computers. However, leases can be structured so that the equipment is replaced on a predetermined cycle. For example, with a three-year cycle, one-third of the leased equipment is replaced each year. That practice extends the life of the lease, but it also means that the district has an established program that ensures that all equipment is replaced on a regular basis. When you consider the price of being stuck with a district full of obsolete equipment, leasing begins to make sense!

Susan Brooks-Young is an educational consultant and writer.

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