The first day of school — well, remote learning — Tuesday in the Historic Triangle was a bit complicated: Both Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and the York County School Division experienced some issues.
WJCC experienced problems with StudentVUE, the main system used for remote learning, less than an hour after school started.
“So we had a glitch this morning,” Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for WJCC Schools, said Tuesday. “It lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.”
She said some “folks” were about to access the StudentVUE system by logging in, while others could not. Some had to restart their computers and log back in. Another issue some families experienced was their password to StudentVUE.
The district ultimately fixed the problem after contacting the service provider, who “added additional resources at the connection point to increase access for students,” according to a Facebook post at 9:47 a.m.
“Department of Technology staff will continue to monitor the system and student access throughout the day to troubleshoot as needed,” according to the WJCC Facebook post.
In addition, Zoom, the video chat platform, has also been crashing “on and off all day,” something Cox said was happening nationwide.
At 9:14 a.m. more than 9,000 people had logged into the platform, Cox said. The division has just more than 11,000 students enrolled and about 400 to 500 teachers with 5,000 devices handed out for remote learning.
She said the district is not anticipating more issues or problems with the remote learning platforms, including Canvas.
“No, again, I think that working with the service provider and getting those additional resources on our end, we don’t anticipate there is going to be a problem,” she added.
StudentVUE is not a new platform to the district and even though they did test it, Cox said the issue may have been the number of people who accessed it at the same time.
“The problem wasn’t on the WJCC end, it was on the vendor end,” Cox said, adding not every school division is using the same platform. “We’re just very fortunate that our service provider was able to resolve the problem quickly and that our families were incredibly patient.”
Elementary students currently have “printed learning packets” families were able to pick up to be used until they can get a learning device.
Cox said there has been “supply chain delays” so students in grades K-2 will get tablets instead of laptops this week; the district will distribute laptops starting Sept. 21 to students in grades 3-5.
“We continue to communicate with our families about resources, about how they can receive assistance,” Cox said. “So I think that the most important thing we can do right now is to be transparent with our parents.”
The York County School Division also received a number of calls Tuesday morning, with parents asking about troubleshooting technical issues.
“It was all hands on deck to get our kids in school,” Katherine Goff, the division’s spokeswoman, said.
The biggest trepidation was they did not have many laptops for their secondary students — 1,500 devices were delivered over the weekend, 1,400 of them distributed on Monday and Tuesday. James Carroll, the division’s chief operations officer, said YCSD should have the rest of the devices Wednesday.
Goff said once the division was aware of the national shortages of devices, they asked families on Sept. 1 if students had devices of their own to log onto the school program.
A little more than 1,500 responses came in requesting school-issued devices, allowing the division to prioritize distribution. Goff said this number represented about a third of the division’s student population.
For the families still waiting for school-issued devices, Goff said they can still access Canvas and StudentVue on personal devices in the meantime.
Goff said 93 percent of middle and high school students logged in and participated Tuesday.
Teachers also expressed excitement to be reconnecting with students again, Goff said, adding summer training to prepare for the Virtual Academy also helped teachers feel more confident to tackle any issues.
“Even if they hit a glitch, they felt they had the ability to work through it and knew where their support systems were to work through it,” Goff said.
So what is the division doing to reassure parents their kids will be okay?
“What we have is the ability to work to ensure that we are open and responsive to our families,” Goff said. “That’s our primary goal right now is just to make sure our families and students and staff have the support to get through this week or two until we settle in.”
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