School districts across Virginia struggled with increased demand Tuesday, as thousands of virtual learning students logged on for their first day of classes. Districts including Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS), and Arlington Public Schools (APS) all suffered major system outages. Other districts reported a high volume of callers needing technical help.
“I sincerely hope there will be full disclosure on what happened. It sure appears to be lack of planning which is unacceptable from a Director [of] IT and school division, ” one user tweeted to CCPS.
CCPS tweeted, “We’re aware of an issue limiting capacity on our network at this moment. This is preventing some students from successfully logging onto their morning class.”
Norfolk Public Schools announced on Twitter that their content filter provider Securly had an outage.
“Our Internet filtering company, Securly, has fixed the connectivity issues we, along with school divisions up and down the East Coast, have been experiencing over the last couple of hours,” the school district said.
“We had a glitch this morning with StudentVUE, that is the platform that we use for our online learning. For about an hour and 15 minutes, we had students having some difficulty accessing the system,” Eileen Cox, the Williamsburg-James City County Schools spokeswoman told The Daily Press.
In a blog post, APS announced that their firewall did not have the capacity to handle the volume, preventing students from accessing Microsoft Teams.
“We knew there would be a high volume of traffic on the first day of school,” the blog post said. “We believed we had taken all necessary steps to prepare for this in advance, and unfortunately this morning we discovered an additional adjustment was needed.”
York County School Division tweeted that although they had no outages, they were receiving high amounts of calls. Petersburg Public Schools told NBC12 that they would be adding additional help desk staff on Wednesday to meet increased demand. Facebook comments in other districts reveal that while there might not have been system-wide outages, many users in other districts also had trouble connecting to their classes. Some parents’ comments were positive, noting only minor hiccups with the new systems, while other parents were more frustrated.
“There have been plenty of challenges today but I have been very impressed with the creativity of the teachers and their set ups. The first day of school is always a little crazy and for a first day of school in distance learning, I think it’s gone as well as it could,” Sharon Rosenfield wrote on the Loudoun County Public Schools Facebook page.
On the Prince William County Public Schools Facebook page Betty Courtland wrote, “My kid is crying in frustration, unable to connect for his [first] day of middle school. This school board should be ashamed. ABSOLUTE disgrace of a county that has collected so much in taxes and funding and kids are being subjected to this total emotional abuse!”
Some parents frustrated with virtual learning have turned to private schools and homeschooling. Vice President Mike Pence has praised Thales Academy.
“I could sense the spirit in the room — the enthusiasm the children feel for being back in school, which is where we want all of America’s children to be,” Pence said after visiting a classroom at the academy’s North Carolina campus. Thales Academy’s Glen Allen campus accepts children K-2nd grade.
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