[See below for back-to-school pictures submitted by GeekWire readers.]
The first lesson in remote learning is apparently, “have patience.”
As Seattle Public Schools kicked off the new school year on Friday with another go at online teaching and learning, technical issues plagued the experience for many students trying to connect from home.
“We are currently experiencing slow internet and learning platform access due to the high volume of traffic this morning,” the district said in alert message to families that flashed across the SPS website. “This has resulted in disruption of service on district issued laptops.”
SPS’ Department of Technology Services said teams were working on the issues and would update when they had a resolution. As of this afternoon, the district was unable to say how widespread the problem was, how many students were trying to connect, or whether the issues would be resolved before school resumes next week.
“There is no doubt that this fall will be challenging, and I am thankful for the ways our families, educators, and staff are working together to help all students succeed no matter the circumstances,” Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a welcome message on Thursday. “One thing we have all learned during this pandemic is to expect the unexpected.”
Update: In a phone message to parents late Friday afternoon, SPS acknowledged the “technical challenges” that many families experienced. The district said that a fix was being deployed Friday evening and that students would need to restart their school-provided devices over the weekend, connect to the internet, log in and download a new software update, which could take more than an hour. Students were also encouraged to start their devices as early as possible before school resumes nest Tuesday.
— Seattle Public Schools (@SeaPubSchools) September 4, 2020
With more than 50,000 K-12 students in the Washington state’s largest district, it was a rough start to an already complicated situation as families grappled with a return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic without the physical school. On social media, parents tweeted about trouble with school-issued computers, inability to access specific online learning portals and being booted out of Microsoft Teams classrooms.
If they had the option, some students abandoned school devices and tried using their own, but some tweets indicated that the connectivity problems persisted.
In my own home, my 8th grader watched his school PC spin for 20 minutes as he waited to connect to an orientation meeting. Attempts to log in through his own computer didn’t prove successful until the short first day of school was already almost over.
19 minutes into the school day and the school-provided laptops cannot connect to the teams meeting. Good thing we had a backup chromebook available but what about kids that don’t and oh my god when can I acceptably start drinking?
— Jess Zimbabwe (@jzimbabwe) September 4, 2020
My son is same boat. Looks like Seattle Public Schools VPN network is completely collapsing under load
— Steve J (@bushidocoder) September 4, 2020
It’s possible that Seattle Public Schools vastly overestimates my ability to troubleshoot a VPN issue.
— Jaline Quinto (@nativevoter) September 4, 2020
Aggressively administered Windows machines do not make for easy debugging when your kid can't join his class. First day of the new revamped remote school for Seattle Public Schools and it's already a dumpster fire…
— JR Boyens (@jboyens) September 4, 2020
My high schooler was logged on before 9. Got booted off right at 9. Could not log back in from school computer. Got logged in at 9:05 from my computer. Tried again with school computer at 9:15 and could get in. No issues since. My middle schooler was fine whole time.
— Social Distancing Steph 🍷 (@WSeattleSteph) September 4, 2020
There has been rolling connectivity issues since last night. We had problems logging in last night and then again this morning were kicked off a couple of times. We have both a personal device and district device and both had issues, but the district device was worse.
— Matt Zieger (@mattzieger) September 4, 2020
Madison teacher here — lots of tech glitches this morning: kids being randomly booted out of Teams meetings, kids not able to see a shared screen, etc. Two words: patience and grace as we figure this all out.
— Stephanie K (@1POdMIteacher) September 4, 2020
What is being done to ensure that ALL students won't have the same connectivity issues next week? Today was a debacle. You should've expected a massive amount of traffic coming into your network. My kid was booted from his class more than 3x after getting in 10 min late.
— Lisa Latendresse, SPHR, SHRM-SCP (@lisalatendresse) September 4, 2020
My son keeps getting kicked off of his call. I have a major work deadline today & can't get anything done. We all need tech support. How will this get better?
— Alex (@Shurao) September 4, 2020
Just to offer a counter point. Our experience with Ballard High has been flawless this morning. No connectivity issues, well controlled class, engaged students. We tested the equipment the night before, as the emails requested, helped work out any bugs.
— Sharo Barre (@sharobarre) September 4, 2020
For those whose summer ended with the traditional first day of school photos, the look of those images was quite different thanks to the pandemic and remote learning. Some GeekWire readers took us up on our invitation to send in pictures of their kids perched in front of laptops. If you’d like to be included, email firstname.lastname@example.org.