By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
Editor’s note: This is a developing story.
It’s the first day of online classes in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and connectivity issues have prevented a number of students from accessing the district’s e-learning platforms.
The issue has hundreds of parents railing at the district on its Facebook page, where it posted about the problems at about 10 a.m. today.
The district’s post read:
“Today, Tuesday, September 8, on our first day of school, we are experiencing internet connectivity issues with one of the district’s Internet Service Providers. This issue is causing a slow and unreliable connection to district-provided web resources, including Schoology and Microsoft Teams. If you are experiencing this at your home, please be patient, our Information Technology team is working to resolve the issue and expect to have full service restored shortly.”
The district also sent out robocalls to parents this morning with the same message, though some parents complained that their message was recorded in Spanish and they did not speak Spanish.
As of 1 p.m., more than 250 people had commented on the district’s page. Some blamed the district’s internet service, others said they believed the problem was with the district-issued computers.
It’s unclear how many of the district’s 23,000 students have been affected. District officials were not available for comment. We will update this post when they respond.
Parents described frustrated children, some in tears and some said they either called off of work because of the situation or handed their work computers over to their children to use for school.
One parent posted:
“This is a disaster. You all are not ready PPS! Internet issues. Classes aren’t loading on computers, some don’t have links to find, kids and parents are confused and missing instruction. This is out of hand. This is not right for our kids education, it’s a disgrace. My son is frustrated and already having anxiety on the first day of school due to this, shame on you PPS!!”
Another posted about missing work:
“The problem is the District’s device. I have to cancel my work today, so my son can use my laptop for study.”
Some parents said they were eventually able to work through the issues and get their children online with their teachers.
James Fogarty, executive director of A+Schools advocacy group, said his daughter, who is in second grade at Pittsburgh Montessori, was eventually able to login to her online class but the system was slow.
Fogarty said his daughter was working on a family-owned device. He said he was hearing that many of those having difficulty connecting were using district-issued devices.
“The district-provided devices seem to be the issue. Can they get a fix as soon as possible?” Fogarty said. “I’m here saying we’ve got to support them in this. But the frustration (of parents) is right. The urgency needs to be there. There’s too many families that are on the edge and they can’t lose their jobs because of the district’s stuff. The families have to get to work.
“The district is right to ask for patience, but at the end of the day it’s on this board and this administration to fix these problems as fast as they can, especially around technical issues as broad as this one.”
The district delayed the start of school from Aug. 31 until today because of a shortage of computer devices for children. It’s unclear how many students are still without devices.
In this morning’s robocall, parents were told that if their students still needed a device they could pick one up at distributions today until 6 p.m. at Carrick and Westinghouse high schools and Pittsburgh Oliver Citywide Academy.