Even in the digital age where students are using the internet for a variety of learning projects, the Hall County and Gainesville school systems are still making millions of paper copies each year.
Keith Palmer, director of technology for the Gainesville City School System, told board members during a meeting this summer that the district had made about 10 million sheets of copies during the 2016-17 school year. In Hall County the number was 28.6 million.
“That’s a lot of copies, but when you consider that we’re not spending millions a year on textbooks, I’ll take that trade right now,” Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said last week. “I hope we get to the point where we see numbers of copies going down. I’m not alarmed by that. I just don’t spend much time worrying about the number of copies that we make in terms of the things that keep me awake at night.”
In an effort to cut the number of copies made, Hall County has been offering incentives to schools that stay below 80 percent of their copier allotment. The schools that come in below that percentage earn instructional money based on the percentage of unused copies below 80 percent of the allotment. A total of 19 schools in Hall County received money added to the instructional allotment from $121.04 at Mount Vernon Exploratory School to $2,724.28 at South Hall Middle. The 19 schools received a total of $17,261.16 in additional money for instruction.
“What I would not want to do is incentivize it to the point where people quit making copies of things that can help kids,” Schofield said. “I think we’ve struck a good balance with that. Looking at it school by school, we see some that are using considerably more than others. Those are the ones we will have conversations with.”
Palmer called Hall County’s incentive program “an interesting idea.”
“I may look into that, although you don’t want the administrator, for lack of a better word, starving the kids instructionally just to meet a goal.”
Palmer said he learned after his presentation to the school board in the summer that his district copier use was “not too far off from what other schools do.”
“If you buy anything these days, you don’t get a manual anymore,” Palmer said. “You get a website to go to; you get a CD drive. You don’t get anything printed anymore. It’s kind of the same thing for us. For testing, we no longer get manuals and you have to go over and print off your own materials from the state, from whoever. So, we’re being asked to print a lot of our own stuff. The manufacturers, the vendors no longer send manuals.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about computers,” Palmer added. “I’ve been in this business for three decades, and there was this perception that it’s going to take everybody’s jobs away. And it didn’t. And there was also the perception that we would never need paper anymore. And it’s just gone up.”
Palmer has been looking for ways to cut down on copier use in his district.
“With the copier (system) now, teachers have to log in with the copier,” he said. “We know how many copies each person is doing, so we can look and see and if we’ve got someone who is really out of the ordinary. We can approach them and say, ‘We see you’re printing a whole lot of copies. What’s going on?’ There may be a reason, but we’re not in the dark anymore.”
Aaron Turpin, Hall County assistant superintendent of technology, said his district has taken over copiers in the schools and put in controls and also tracks copier use. In addition, the district is working to put a projector in every classroom.
“In most of our schools it’s gone down dramatically,” Turpin said. “A few of the schools it’s gone up … In schools and classrooms where we have completed the (audio-visual) renovation, where every classroom has an interactive wireless projector, in those schools we did see decreases in ink and copier usage simply because we have a huge display.”