Aug. 20 was college shirt day at Barbara Bush Middle School.
It was also the fourth day of the virtual start to the school year for Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.
“By Thursday, you really think 'OK, I'm starting to get this under control,'” said Abby Ramos, language arts teacher at Barbara Bush Middle School. “Like, ‘It's the first week, but it's our fourth day. I'm actually feeling pretty good about it.’”
Soon, however, Ramos discovered that she couldn’t post her class modules for the day. She was also getting messages from students that they were having trouble, too.
The internet issues appeared to be widespread, and teachers began worrying about their inability to post information, Ramos said. Soon, her principal came over the school loudspeaker suggesting teachers go home if they had more reliable internet there.
“So I just packed up both my little laptops and went straight home and was set up ready to go in time for homeroom,” Ramos said.
She found out later the same day that internet access had been restored, but she chose to continue working from home.
“I was really worried that the kids weren't going to show up to the online classes, because word like that spreads,” she said.
She turned to her social media to spread the word that, yes, class would go on as scheduled.
CFBISD was one of 54 school districts that had been afflicted with internet connectivity issues 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.
While the issue was an isolated incident, for Ramos it was just another pivot point.
“As teachers we have to be so flexible,” she said. “We'd changed so much by Thursday that by then it was just kind of another thing to deal with.”
As the district moves further into its virtual start of school, Ramos said she is taking steps to be prepared in case accessing a live class is not possible due to various circumstances. That involves setting up online learning modules days in advance so that if a live class is unable to proceed, students will still know to go to the district’s learning management system and look for class information.
“We definitely have to just be planning ahead, which was something that we used to be able to do pretty easily,” she said, “but it's been much harder, obviously, because we just don't know.”