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End of Support for Windows XP Leaves Districts With Big Decisions

One of the biggest financial and technological questions facing schools these days is one that has also been a long time coming: Microsoft Corp. is ending support for the Windows XP operating system, which is expected to leave districts across the country with some major buying decisions.

The loss of support, slated for April 8, 2014, means that users of XP—who are thought to include a substantial portion of the nation's K-12 districts—will not receive the automatic patches and upgrades to provide them with security, or the technical support they need when problems arise. And new software and programs are increasingly unlikely to be compatible with the XP model, Microsoft has warned.

The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant has been stating its intention to end support for XP for years. But as I explain in a story this week, many districts appear to have been slow to face that reality, and so now they face a time crunch.

Another factor adding to the pressure: More than 40 states have said they plan to implement online tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. The two consortia of states that are designing the tests are recommending that districts upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, or a similarly up-to-date operating system, to get ready.

But many tech advocates who work in or with districts say that some school systems that upgrade to 7 or 8 will also have to upgrade their aging stocks of computing devices, which may not be compatible with newer versions of Windows. That's no small investment. In one district described in my story, serving Janesville, Wis., school officials are likely to buy more than 3,000 computers over the next two years, and their tech equipment budget could jump from $900,000 to $2.2 million, with $1.3 million of that going to equipment.

Districts could, of course, also choose other operating systems, like Linux or Mac OS X. Or they could try options such as moving towards virtualization of operating systems.

In any case, it appears that many districts will be exploring their tech options soon, if they haven't already

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