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Connectivity, Device Issues As Pittsburgh Public Schools Students Log On For Class

Craig Mitchelldyer

Some Pittsburgh Public Schools students experienced slow connections or none at all on the first day of online classes Tuesday. All classes are being held online through at least the first nine weeks of school.

Mark Stuckey, the district’s interim chief technology officer, said there was a configuration issue with the district’s Internet bandwidth provider, causing students to bottleneck through a smaller backup server when trying to access the district’s web resources. 

Once the district’s technology team was able to reroute students through the correct bandwidth provider, the issue was resolved. Stuckey said that work took about two hours.

He noted some students who tried to access the virtual classroom through Schoology or Microsoft Teams by using a personal device not issued by PPS had no issue.

A separate issue saw students and district administrators unable to access the PPS website, which is run by the educational technology company Blackboard. Stuckey said Blackboard access was later restored.

Shishir Paudel has two sons in the district; one in first grade at Colfax and one in sixth grade at SciTech.

His first grader couldn’t access the classroom when he tried to log in for the first day Tuesday around 8:30 a.m. Paudel said the family then received a call from PPS describing the connectivity issue and shortly after the call, his son was able to access the online resources. He said he appreciated being able to message his son’s teacher to ask about the issue, too.

“We have direct access to his teacher,” he said. “She replied back immediately.”

Paudel’s older son had an issue with a PPS-issued computer. Paudel lent him his own laptop for the day until they could exchange the PPS-issued computer at SciTech for another. He said neither son had an issue accessing class materials or the classroom Wednesday.

He noted the district’s quick response in correcting the issues from the first day and said he’s happier with how things are structured this semester compared with the spring. He said the virtual classroom has been a better fit for his sons than the packet-based lessons when classes initially closed in March.

“I’m happy so far with the last two days. I believe Pittsburgh Public Schools will be able to handle this,” Paudel said.

The bandwidth is being regularly monitored, so Stuckey doesn’t expect this specific issue to occur again. By Wednesday, Stuckey said about 10,500 students were accessing the school’s online resources and using only about 36 percent of the bandwidth.