DMV families continue to receive technology for virtual school year but wonder about backup plans

MCPS addresses questions about attendance, grading & technology improvement in online meeting

A new school year like no other starts Monday for tens of thousands of students in the D.C. region, which has many families asking: is the technology going to work and will it stay that way for online learning?

On Tuesday, one after another, parents and students came by Roosevelt High School in Northwest D.C. to grab all the technology they will need for the first day of virtual school come August 31.

READ MORE: Here’s what DC, Maryland and Virginia school districts have planned for the fall

“Hopefully the internet and everything will work right,” said Kevin Barnes whose son is going into the tenth grade.

It’s a thought, if not at least a concern, leaders with D.C. Public Schools said they are aware of and are addressing.

“Network failures or a system failure,” said James Reid. “Because we definitely had that a lot while in school last year.”

Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said that if there are technology issues, the school system still has the capability of distributing learning packets similar to what they did in the spring.

Plus, he said the devices, both old and new, will have the latest software updates and ready for functional use.

“We believe that they are highly functioning at this point,” explained Ferebee. “But we have a hotline and a tech support center for families so families can call in and let us know.”

The school system surveyed close to 32,000 families over the summer where 60 percent who responded indicated they needed a device while 27 percent said they needed connectivity. School leaders didn’t say how many exactly are still in need of that technology, with just 6 days to go but added that they will continue to resolve tech issues even after school starts.

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Meanwhile, some D.C. school families hope that the first day of virtual learning is similar to what they experienced back in the spring.

“We did really good when it initially started,” said Shauntey Williams, whose daughter begins ninth grade. 

“They (the kids) are prepared to start back up again so it’s great.”

But for some parents in other public school districts like Montgomery County, the worry about potential technical glitches and not knowing what to do, remains.

“We are not responsible for that and we feel like that if something goes wrong what do we do?” said Bina Alperin-Sheriff whose 5-year-old daughter will enter kindergarten. 

“We don’t have anything or are even equipped to deal with that.”

In a statement to FOX 5, MCPS explained that in the event of a Zoom outage, they are developing non-live instruction (asynchronous) to use in case any of their systems are down.

In Prince George’s County, the school system purchased a secure version of Zoom, which is different from the general public system. However, should they experience a disruption in service, the system is capable of switching to Google Classroom as a backup. The school system has also created a parent support center that can serve as a resource in addition to support provided by the actual school.

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