Fairfax Co. schools cancel online classes for the week for ‘necessary updates’

Amid widespread technical issues preventing students from accessing distance learning tools, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia announced Wednesday that all teacher-led instruction has been canceled for the week in order to make necessary updates.

The school system and Blackboard, the county’s online learning provider, believe they have identified the root cause of the connectivity problems and that they involve a software issue.

“In order to work properly, staff must make necessary updates and patches to the system. On a system as large as FCPS’, these critical updates take time,” according to a letter school Superintendent Scott Brabrand sent to the school community.

Teachers will contact students by email or phone Thursday and Friday to make sure that assigned work is completed and submitted.

During the cancellation, resources are still available through live streaming of instructional programming on local cable channels, as well as in the school system’s website.

The county had initially delayed Wednesday’s instruction for elementary and middle school classes for two hours, eventually canceling all teacher-led instruction for the day.

The program also experienced outage issues on Tuesday, which was the school system’s first day of online learning since all schools closed March 13 amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the school system, said that some people who “may or may not have been students” were engaging in disruptive behavior on the distance learning platform.

” … These behaviors involved expressions of foul and inappropriate language that was upsetting for the staff and students,” Caldwell said.

Fairfax County-based Blackboard apologized for the disruption and said that it is working closely with the school system to resolve the issues.

“In addition, we are working with FCPS to require students to log in to the FCPS 24-7 site and authenticate their identity before they are permitted to join a virtual classroom,” Blackboard said in a statement.

The school system will reassess the situation and provide an update on Friday, when staff will also receive training associated with the system upgrades.

Teacher-led classes are expected to resume on Monday.

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Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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