Seattle Public Schools’ return to remote learning gets off to rough start with technical problems

(Twitter Photo via Seattle Public Schools)

[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.”

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.

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 [email protected]

First grader Bennett Hobson is online for his class at Catherine Blaine K-8 School. (Photo courtesy of Erin Hobson)
One kindergartner’s second day of remote learning. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Ressler)
Back to school time for Jack. (Photo courtesy of Hollie Zepke-Price)
James Cook online for the first day in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)

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