Broward schools internet fails on first day back


South Florida Sun Sentinel | by Lois K. Solomon | January 4, 2021

Broward students lost an essential day of learning on Monday, their first day back from winter break, as the school district’s online systems crashed early in the morning.

It wasn’t the first time Broward schools’ electronic learning programs collapsed as children returned from vacation. But Monday’s Internet outage was exceptionally frustrating to many parents and teachers, who have been watching children lose crucial skills during the pandemic and were eager to get them back on track after the two-week break.

South Florida parents have the option of sending their kids to traditional classrooms or having them learn remotely as a pandemic precaution. But school districts are seeing high rates of failure among students learning at home.

Parents of about 76,000 South Florida children will soon receive letters saying their kids are failing at distance learning and they need to come back to campus. Parents who want to keep their kids in virtual learning due to COVID-19 concerns will have to sign acknowledgement forms saying they understand their kids are performing poorly, but they still want them to stay home.

Many of these students opened their computers on Monday morning to find the system down.

“Staff is working to determine the cause of the problem and resolve it as quickly as possible,” the district said in a morning statement. “Families are being notified of the situation via robocalls, emails and the District’s mobile app.”

The district declined to detail the extent of the outages.

“While staff understand which systems failed to function properly and were able to rectify the problem, they will conduct exhaustive analysis (Monday) evening and throughout the night to determine the exact cause of the identified issues,” the district said.

Teachers and parents expressed frustration as the day proceeded about being unable to open several school district online platforms, including Canvas.

“It’s so bad. We can’t do any lessons. My students cannot open Word documents or even open Canvas to access my materials. I cannot log in attendance,” Fallan Patterson, a teacher at Cooper City High School, said on Twitter.

As the day went on, some teachers and parents reported intermittent access, while others said they still couldn’t get in.

“My first class this morning was fully remote (no students at school) and we had no issues with Teams or Canvas, just intermittent issues with Gradebook,” Jodi Turchin, a high school teacher from Coral Springs, said on Twitter.

Broward schools’ Internet also crashed on the first day back from spring break last year. By 3 p.m., most schools were back online that day.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, the district sent an email that said the problems had been resolved. The district planned “additional validation testing” of the system beginning at 5 p.m. Monday and said outages were not expected on Tuesday.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and thank you for your patience,” the email said.

Photo: Jackson Ross attends first grade during the first day of face-to-face eLearning at Plantation Park Elementary School in Plantation Florida on Friday, October 9, 2020. Nearly seven months after Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) was forced to close schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District begins its phased reopening for face-to-face eLearning by welcoming almost 20,000 students – from pre-K to second grade and exceptional student education from all grade levels – onto school campuses. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)