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Chesterfield apologizes after students, teachers can't log into virtual school

Posted at 8:53 AM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 08:27:39-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Chesterfield County School apologized to families and school staff after the first day of virtual learning got off to a rocky start.

"This morning was not the best morning for our school division," an email from the school system read. "It certainly was not the way that we expected to serve and support students in the virtual learning environment. We are sorry for any inconvenience created for families, and angst created for students who struggled to get to their online classes earlier this morning."

Chesterfield Schools reported the "network issues" that prevented thousands of students and teachers from accessing their online classes Tuesday morning were "largely" resolved after a two-hour delay.

What happened?

According to the county email, as middle school students began to log on at 7:30 a.m. the system appeared to work smoothly.

But when elementary and high school students started to log in between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., the system slowed. as it experienced problems.

"We immediately reached out to our partners to ask for their assistance. Working with Amazon Web Services, Rapid Identity was able to double their capacity to process information by about 9:30 a.m. The log-in process for students started to improve for some families at that time," the county explained. "By 10 a.m., the system was nearly at full functional capacity, and students were joining their classes."

A Chesterfield Schools spokesperson admitted the county wasn't able to fully test the system prior to the first day of school.

"Quite honestly, it is difficult to replicate 60,000 students signing on with a one-hour time period without actually doing it," the email continued. "That is not meant to be an excuse; it is just an unfortunate fact. The MAP testing that was conducted during the past two weeks did not yield any glimpse of issues. Approximately 36,000 math and reading tests were completed, involving students in grades 3-10."

The county is working with Rapid Identity to make sure Wednesday's school day gets off on the right foot.

"The school division has been notified that the increased capacity for logging in, student ID authentication, etc. will remain in place to support our work. Rapid Identity and Amazon Web Services stand ready to assist," the email read. "With the process in place that was implemented mid-morning and seeing student success logging since that time, we feel confident that Wednesday’s start will be a much smoother one."

As thousands of students attempted to attend their first day of online classes in Chesterfield, many were met with error messages preventing them from logging on.

"We are aware of an issue limiting capacity on our network at this moment," Chesterfield Schools wrote in an email to parents at about 8:35 a.m. Tuesday. "This is preventing some students from successfully logging onto their morning class. We are quickly working to address the issue with our server provider, and hope to have resolution shortly."

Chesterfield County is one of Virginia's largest school districts with more than 62,000 students and more than 60 schools.

Chesterfield, along with Henrico and Richmond, schools started the school year online Tuesday, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hanover County School started its school year with students both in class and online.