Donated gear helps local schools

BEVERLY – What the Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg no longer needs is just what some area school districts are seeking.

The Fort Frye Local Board of Education in December accepted the donation of equipment, mostly computers and printers, with a purchase price of more than $80,000 from the federal agency. It’s not the first time Fort Frye and other districts have been on the receiving end of technology, furniture and other items from the bureau.

“I can’t even tell you how many thousands of dollars, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars we’ve saved, thanks to Public Debt and the FBI,” Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn said.

Dunn said an entire computer lab at Belpre High School was furnished with computers from Public Debt, and the district has also received flat-screen monitors considered surplus property by the FBI. Sometimes there’s a bit of work required to get them up and running again, but it’s much better than buying the items new, he said.

An estimate on the value of the items received from the agencies was not immediately available from Belpre.

A spokeswoman for the bureau did not return a call seeking specifics on the program, but she did note equipment was donated after its useful life cycle had been reached.

Fort Frye technology coordinator Ryan Henry said he used to work for a bank outside the area that had a similar policy. Employees’ laptops were replaced every three years with up-to-date technology. Desktops were switched every four years.

That means the computer equipment the district gets from Public Debt isn’t the most recent available, but in many cases, it’s more recent than what the schools have on hand.

“It lifts the burden of paying that money up front,” Henry said. “Yes, the technology may be a little bit older, but it’s still giving our students access to the Internet and word-processing programs.”

And it’s free. Henry said a lab the district redid around the time he arrived three years ago cost about $20,000.

In some instances, the computer equipment might not have been in working order, but Henry said even then he was able to use them for parts instead of buying those items.

Since 2010, Fort Frye has received nearly $137,000 in furniture and computer equipment from Public Debt, and the relationship was in place before Henry joined the district. When computers are phased out, the bureau contacts the district, he said. On other occasions, he will contact them if the district is in need of certain items.

Officials with Marietta City and Warren Local Schools, as well as St. John Central Grade School, said they have also received donations from Public Debt in recent years.