For Michele Jones, the first day of school is always exciting. However, this year some of that excitement turned to frustration as she logged onto her computer and started teaching math to her 9th-grade students.
“This year it’s been more consistently down,” says Jones of Granite’s WiFi system, educational apps, and portals that teachers and students use to access grades and assignments.
“There wasn’t a single day in the first three weeks of school that I could get a majority of my students on (the internet),” Jones said.
Beyond the Books was notified about the issues but was unable to get accurate information from the district as to when the problems with “the system" were occurring.
First of all, there are multiple elements that make up the online tools Granite schools use, including the WiFi and the educational apps used by students and information portals used by teachers.
What was confirmed is the district experienced three major WiFi outages this year. One teacher also sent Beyond the Books a list of 22 computer glitches, crashes and failures, she and colleagues have experienced since the beginning of the year.
Beyond the Books also looked at Granite School District’s tech help desk on Twitter for problems the district was experiencing district-wide.
Between the two sources, there have been 38 days when all or some of Granite school teachers, parents, and students had some kind of technical problem accessing email, educational apps, and other portals. That’s about a quarter of the school days so far this year -- and this list is incomplete at best.
Granite School District Spokesperson Ben Horsley says the district services 90 schools, and many of those are older and were not built to accommodate the vast world that makes up technology.
He also says the internet system Granite has in place is accommodating more users than ever before.
We’ve gone, in just the three years from about 30,000 users on our WiFi to over 180,000 just in the last check, in the last quarter of this year.
Horsley was also quick to point out that many of the problems teachers and students experience are not the fault of the district.
We’ve been able to equate about half the problems that teachers are experiencing to either a local problem, or a vendor issue itself,. Overall, WiFi connection issues have not been a significant issue.
Despite that claim, Beyond the Books received copies of emails sent by district IT bosses to some teachers that admit some problems with accessing educational apps.
One email to teachers in November of this year reads:
Over the past 2-3 weeks, Granite district has experienced widespread and intermittent outages with Google Apps for Education (Google Drive, Classroom, Slides, etc. The Educational Technology department and Information Systems department have been working daily to troubleshoot, investigate, and attempt to repair the issues. Both departments have been in regular contact with Google Support throughout this process.
As for Jones, she and her colleagues at Cyprus High School - and across the state - are preparing for the Aspire assessment test coming up in a week.
She fears the district and the school won’t be ready despite plans by the district to employ extra servers to make sure the test goes off without a hitch.
Jones says at this point she has to rely on a little “hope.”