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The school day came to a halt Tuesday morning for a majority of Frederick County Public School students and teachers due to a widespread server outage.

Starting around 9 a.m., students and teachers were unable to log on to Schoology and other online learning platforms like Google Classroom for about an hour.

Schoology is the primary learning management platform that FCPS uses for online learning. Students are able to access documents, digital assignments, and resources through the platform. Most live, synchronous sessions occur through Google Meet which is supported by Google Classroom.

The outage came as students in middle and high school were in the midst of their first-period class and just as most elementary schoolers were logging on for the start of the day.

Jessica Jamison's two children both attend Whittier Elementary School. Her son is in Kindergarten and her daughter is in the Pre-K program. Jamison said she spent an hour trying to log on her kids to Schoology Tuesday morning but couldn't gain access. Eventually, she called the school and central office and was told it was a countywide issue.

After an hour of failed attempts, Jamison's son was able to log on through a personal family computer but the issue was still effecting the kids' Chromebooks. Her daughter ended up missing the entire day of school and her son's connection kept going in and out.

Daryl Boffman, executive director of Public Affairs for FCPS, said in an email that teachers were flexible with students for the remainder of the school day and that schools worked to make adjustments to schedules to compensate for the outage. 

This is the first major technological issue the school system has seen since beginning the school year last week in a full virtual mode.

Jamison said Tuesday's issues just added to how stressful the virtual learning environment has been.

"By the second day my son was tired of sitting in a chair and staring at a screen. They did a show-and-tell and it takes like an hour to go through all the kids and he’s just sitting there," she said.

When asked what caused Tuesday's outage Boffman did not provide a specific reason but said, "We are actively investigating the root cause and implementing strategies to prevent a recurrence of this issue in the future."

Boffman added that the possibility of another outage is unknown and that due to FCPS not controlling all aspects of online learning, they cannot predict the occurrence of technology glitches.

Jamison said she worries that glitches like this will continue.

“I hope it doesn’t [continue] but I guess I don’t have much faith because there’s so many people trying to be [online] at the same time.”

In a statement, school superintendent Terry Alban said that as long as FCPS and its students and teachers are using technology for instruction there is the possibility for technical issues to occur.

"Our team responded rapidly this morning to address the issue within an hour. Just as they do when teaching face to face in a classroom, our teachers demonstrate professional flexibility when encountering technical challenges," Alban said. "In the virtual model, I know that our teachers have worked with students to develop options should there be a technical glitch."

Regardless of the hiccups though, Jamison said she and her family are taking virtual learning in strides and know that teachers are working their best to make the model run smoothly. 

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(13) comments

threecents

I think we all knew there would be hiccups. Isn't it a little early to panic?

jloo

Look, they only had ALL summer to prepare and two days in they have an outage??

C.D.Reid

Is anybody surprised?

duffy5x

Meaning what? Go ahead. Use words.

duffy5x

Who exactly do you “think” caused the outage?

vodalone

We experienced the outage, it wasn't that bad. Is the current situation ideal? Far from it. Hopefully next semester kids will be in school in some form.

TheRealAntMan

I hope it is next semester or earlier. But there may be a longer wait due to the schools are saving money; less spent on lunchroom costs and bus expenses. These savings are from salaries and expendable costs to electricity, heating and cooling costs. I just hope teacher unions are not wanting to get raises or my taxes go up. My oldest goes to school online and completes the day in three hours. He's happy but he is missing out on the social education he receives, from socializing, and he is losing in overall general education because he went 5 days a week from 6-7 hours classroom to maybe three online only 4 days a week. Virtual is far from ideal but as a society we are letting fear of SARS get the best of us.

HappySeller2014

Things happen. My young kids handled everything very well, as did their teachers. And school staff very responsive when I contacted them a few minutes after 9 AM yesterday regarding connectivity issues.

We just need to keep marching onward. Remember, a calm sea has never produced a skilled sailor. A little bit of adversity here and there makes folks stronger. And, my kids are learning life lessons that cannot be taught in a textbook or on a computer screen.

If this situation highly upsets you, you just cut 10 minutes off of your lifespan by letting your heart rate and pulse quicken unnecessarily. Children and folks who just roll with it, and learn and grow from it, are the winners here.

threecents

Hopefully they are taping the lectures, so kids can watch them later if there are glitches.

TheRealAntMan

This virtual classroom is a horrible way for children to learn. The teachers are assuming there is a parent sitting right next to the child to help teach them. I could tell as one elementary teacher was agitated that many students were unable to open documents and she said go get your parents to show you where it is.

duffy5x

Online learning isn’t new nor is it terrible. Just stop,

TheRealAntMan

Nobody said it's new, but it is for young children. Read some published sociology papers. For college level classes it isn't difficult, but children having to learn while never navigating laptops before (ages 5 to 7) is a difficult measure. Having children sit in front of a screen for an entire hour brings restfulness and lack of focus on the learning.

NewMarketParent

@TheRealAntMan

You know what else is horrible? Breathing on a ventilator is pretty horrible too. That is what we are trying to prevent not just for our children, but also FCPS staff and families who have children in school. Is it ideal? Nope. But, at this point we are just trying to deal with the least stinky t*rd.

Are there going to be problems? Absolutely! Is it going to cause irreparable harm to kids? Probably not, but it definitely beats having Corona.

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