Allen ISD online

Kristi Hutchison, Kindergarten teacher at Lindsey Elementary School, is one of many teaching through Allen ISD's virtual start to the school year. The district is scheduled to begin in-person learning Sept. 2. 

It was the second day of Misty Gallo’s introductory lesson on rhetorical analysis for her second period class, and the AP English teacher couldn’t access her own materials.

“When I arrived on campus, we weren't able to log into the portal, which meant that the typical ways that I would access my information were no longer accessible,” The Allen High School teacher said.

Internet connectivity issues had afflicted Allen ISD the morning of Aug. 20, leaving Gallo and other teachers to find a workaround.

Allen ISD was among the 54 school districts impacted by internet connectivity problems due to an issue with the Region 10 Education Service Center that day. A piece of hardware at Zayo, the contractor for the Region 10 Fiber Network, failed, according to a statement from Rachel Frost, Region 10 chief communications officer. The internet connectivity issues lasted for about two-and-a-half hours, Frost stated, and the contractor told Region 10 that the issue will not happen again.

In the wake of a virtual school year start for multiple school districts, the incident, while isolated, raises the question of what a virtual school system might do if internet issues arise again. For Allen ISD, the response on that Thursday morning was multidimensional. The district’s Twitter page provided updates, parents and staff members received an email and the district turned to using phone calls as well.

For David Hicks, Allen ISD’s chief information officer, the topic brings to mind the “digital agility” phrase he has recently heard floating around, which denotes looking at how to work around an issue when something goes wrong, he said.

For Gallo and her fellow teachers, that meant taking a walk around the school (complete with face masks) in an effort to collectively brainstorm how to work around the issue.

“We first of all wanted to make sure that the students weren't going to panic,” she said.

The next order of business involved brainstorming how to make sure students got the information they needed. That included providing alternate Zoom meeting times to recapture any missing information, Gallo said.

On that Thursday morning, her students could still access Zoom, Gallo said, and so could she.

“I was able to teach, still, from Zoom using pen and paper and using a whiteboard to walk them through the information,” she said.

One student also proposed helping with the day’s lesson.

“One girl suggested that she could screenshare from her side, because she had access to Google Slideshare,” Gallo said, “and so we were able still to have some creative and community problem-solving in getting the information out.”

For Gallo, her students' response to the issue included smiles and some brainstorming for how to work around the day’s challenge. She said the incident served as almost a bonding experience.

“They were all waiting for me to make a joke about, ‘Okay, we broke the internet. What's going to happen next?’” she said.

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