The morning after November's school levy referendum in Lakeville, a disgruntled Yasin Elabdi and some friends in his eighth-grade homeroom at Century Middle School decided that enough was enough.
For the second time in two years, voters had nixed a technology levy, dashing the students' hopes that their school would finally be able to replace its slow-as-molasses computers.
"We were kind of disappointed that the levy didn't pass for technology, because our computers aren't really good," said Elabdi, 14.
But instead of just venting, the students came up with a plan.
They marched into school Principal Catherine Gillach's office the next day and, with some guidance, came up with the concept of a huge garage sale. It caught on, and at a rally this week, the school began donation collections for the sale.
At the "Sale of the Century," set for May 3, parents and students hope to raise $25,000 to help upgrade the district's aging computers.
More than 75 percent of the district's computers are at least 5 years old, with 15 percent at least 9 years old, the district said last fall as it promoted the technology levy, which would have raised $1 million a year for 10 years.
At Century, that picture is even starker:
Nearly 80 percent of the school's 300 computers date to 1999, the year the school opened.
At school-wide rallies held in the gym this week, a group of Century students performed a skit to illustrate the frustration with what Gillach calls "the spinning wheel of death" -- the ominous little icon that pops up on a computer screen when it's "thinking."
It's an icon that Century students spend quality time staring at when they try to write papers or upload photos, and that teachers endure when they try to input grades.
"Frozen! It can't be frozen!" Skit participant Mitchell Bermel, a seventh-grader, yelled at the "screen" of a cardboard computer that fellow actor Chandler Larson then drop-kicked during the skit.
Several students said they thought the levy didn't pass because adults who don't use computers don't fully understand how important they are to classrooms.
"It's more of a need than a want," said Madeline Kanne, a Century student who said her teachers often expect typed assignments.
Old computers affect exams, too, Gillach said. This spring, the school will administer a state-mandated science test designed to be taken on computers, but test specifications call for processing speeds twice as fast as those of Century's computers.
"We may end up busing our kids to another building, quite honestly," she said.
And new math lessons available to teachers are going untaught, she added. "Our math teachers can't use the curriculum because their computers aren't powerful enough to run the software."
Century Middle School will use proceeds from the garage sale to replace equipment in one of its computer labs. With computers running about $1,300 apiece, $25,000 would buy about 20 machines.
At the district level, Lakeville administrators plan to tap into the district's general fund and use a short-term state allocation to pay for $3.5 million in technology needs between now and 2012, despite budget cuts this year and next.
"We're going to be taking it from Peter to pay Paul," said Superintendent Gary Amoroso.
Students at the school aim to collect 2,500 bags of donated clothes, books, toys and other items, with a competition among classroom teams in March to see who can round up the most.
The garage sale isn't a rebuke to the community for quashing the levy, but a chance for residents to help Century buy much-needed equipment, said parent coordinator Ann Brucciani Lyon. "Even if you didn't support the levy because your concern was increasing taxes ... you can support the sale through giving or through shopping."
Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016