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Issues reported on first day of virtual learning in Miami-Dade County

Virtual classes began Monday amid parent and teacher concerns about online platform

MIAMI – Students in Miami-Dade County tried to log on to their virtual classrooms Monday to start the 2020-2021 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but many were experiencing technical difficulties with the online platform.

According to Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the issue was not a platform issue, but rather an issue between the data center and the internet provider.

“Obviously we hoped a massive endeavor of this scale would go flawlessly, but technology is something we are all dealing with these days,” he said.

The superintendent said those who were able to access the system reported having no issues.

He said the district sent out an alternate link to the portal website for people to use that were still having issues.

“We know what the problem is, but we do not have as of yet, and I want to be perfectly clear and honest, one of the greatest disappointments for me as a superintendent, that we do not have yet a solution,” Carvalho said.

“For the parents, I continue to urge you to be patient with us,” Carvalho said. “This is an implantation that would normally take probably five to six months. We rolled it out in about six to seven weeks.

“We are relying on Cisco engineers to solve a Cisco software connectivity switch problem.”

One of those parents, David Grossman, says neither of his children, one in fifth grade one in eighth grade, had much of a first day.

“I think it came across as them being totally unprepared and now they’re being unaccountable,” he said. The first day was basically nothing. Nothing worked.”

As for Carvalho’s excuse of blaming the software, Grossman said if that’s the case, hold the company accountable.

“I’d like to see them prove it was Cisco and then sue Cisco,” said Grossman. “Get the taxpayer money back for us.”

Late Monday, the school board released a statement that read, “the District has been provided assurances that the connectivity problems experienced by students and teachers have been identified and resolved.”

The glitch didn’t just affect students Monday, but many teachers, as well, including some who are now working from home.

Other teachers, however, are still working out of their normal classrooms, which are now looking barren with empty desks.

There’s also been extra signage placed around campuses reminding visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Parents spent the last week accessing the county’s Week of Welcome site to get acquainted with their sons’ or daughters’ online learning platform.

“My primary concern is for my youngest,” concerned mom Amanda Prieto said.

Over the summer, Local 10 has spoken to concerned parents like Prieto. She has two little ones starting Pre-K and third grade.

“I’m really disappointed in what’s been made available to parents and teachers,” Prieto said. “I’m really worried about the teachers. It seems like they’re getting access really last minute without a lot of time to prepare.”

Teachers have been preparing as well, but the head of the teachers union is concerned about what she said is a lack of hands-on access ahead of time.

“The platform was not ready,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said. “The company they contracted just was, I think they’re in over their head.”

Hernandez-Mats released the following statement Monday regarding the virtual learning issues:

“Our Miami-Dade education professionals have been working hard over the past two weeks, weekends included, to prepare for the start of the school year. It has been incredibly frustrating and disheartening to see how this program has failed them as well as our students and parents. Teachers have displayed an unbelievable amount of ingenuity and resilience over the past four months and our hope is that the district will be able to resolve these issues soon so that distance learning can be optimized.”

There is some hope that teachers, parents and students in the district could look forward to traditional in-person learning sooner than expected, but only if current COVID trends hold.

In fact, titan sprayers were used to clean and disinfect school buildings last week.

“We are very confident we are going to be able to move that deadline up sometime to the middle of September at the latest,” Carvalho said prior to the first day of school.

Carvalho reiterated that message on the first day of school, saying “This certainly is a very different experience, and we need to resume regular schooling as soon as possible.”

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