BERLIN – While internet issues have plagued local schools this week, school system officials say the lack of connectivity shouldn’t impact instruction.
A lack of internet in schools simply means that students in the classroom have to resort to paper and pencil rather than digital devices. And though distance learners who rely on Zoom to connect with their class might be unable to interact with their peers back at school, they still have access to asynchronous learning materials at home.
“It really shouldn’t impact instruction,” said Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief academic officer for grades 9-12.
Regardless, officials say the school system is working diligently to address the connectivity issues. They have now distributed mobile hotspots — which were used throughout the county when schools were closed — to schools to give teachers access to the internet. They also announced that Friday’s virtual classes would be asynchronous only, meaning students at home will have access not to a live Zoom call but rather prerecorded videos and lessons.
Dee Shorts, chief academic officer for prekindergarten through eighth grade, said that a lack of internet access did not mean instruction would stop in classrooms.
“There’s absolutely no reason instruction would ever stop for face to face learners,” she said.
She said teachers she’d spoken to this week commented on the comeback of old staples like pencil and paper as students’ iPads weren’t able to get online. She said the biggest issue created by the lack of internet was the inability for kids at home engaged in virtual learning to connect with their classmates in schools.
“It’s nice when you can keep distance learning kids together with kids who are face to face,” she said. “They’re still collaborating.”
Wallace said the school system’s IT team was hard at work addressing the connectivity problems, which are believed to be related to filtering and firewalls. Though the internet problems began just as the school system’s third wave of students returned to schools on Oct. 26, Wallace said the issue is not that the system is overloaded.
“We were one-to-one (with digital devices) before the iPads,” she said.
She added, however, that having multiple kids in a classroom using Zoom at once, for example, did use a lot of bandwidth.
“That has not helped the situation,” she said.
Wallace said that now that hotspots had been distributed to schools there was a measure of connectivity throughout the county even if the district-wide internet issues had not been solved.