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Superintendent says cyberattack is partially to blame for two days of technical problems

More issues reported on second day of online learning for Miami-Dade County

Students and teachers were experiencing more issues Tuesday morning as they tried to log in to their online classes for the second day of the school year.
Students and teachers were experiencing more issues Tuesday morning as they tried to log in to their online classes for the second day of the school year.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Students and teachers were experiencing more issues Tuesday morning as they tried to log in to their online classes for the second day of the school year.

According to a statement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, there was an issue with their internet service, but it is now operational.

“We are working with our service provider, Comcast, to determine the root cause,” the statement read. “As of 9 a.m., more than 160,000 students and over 10,000 teachers were logged onto the K12 platform.”

“Comcast has a longstanding relationship with the Miami Dade County Public Schools and we place tremendous value on the partnership we have built together over time,” a statement from the company read. “We have worked together to connect tens of thousands of families to the internet, so any issue that could impact internet access is one that we take very seriously. Comcast became aware of an issue impacting the Miami Dade School District network, causing many families to be unable to access the learning site as the school day began. Given this took place during the beginning of school, we understand how important connectivity is for virtual learning during this unprecedented time. We are continuing to monitor the situation and are working with the school district and law enforcement to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We sincerely apologize to the families, teachers and students who were kept offline.”

Later in the day, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that a cyberattack was partially to blame for the issues from the past 48 hours.

Whoever perpetrated the attack used it to block the entry way into the system.

“There was a malicious, well-orchestrated, complex attempt, at derailing and destroying the connection which is essential for our students and teachers,” said Carvalho.

Carvalho’s comments can be seen below:

Alberto Carvalho presser 9/1/20

WATCH LIVE: Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho holds press conference to address issues on first two days of school. Read more: https://bit.ly/2DiJHMn

Posted by WPLG Local 10 on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Carvalho said they know it was a Cisco switch issue that was the main problem on Monday, but these attacks may have even affected the first day as well.

“In the shadow of this catastrophic failure by Cicso, there was a simultaneous cyber-attack utilizing Comcast,” Carvalho said.

“Our primary focus is to remain actively engaged to provide whatever additional product or service support is required,” a Cisco spokesperson said in a statement.

One teacher told Local 10 News that he was able to get into My School Online earlier in the morning, but would get kicked out.

“In a way, day number two has been worse than day number one,” one father, David Grossman, said.

Grossman has two kids in the public school system.

After getting an error message one day one of distance learning, he was hoping day two would run a little bit better.

“When we went to get on, the portal for K12 was not working properly,” he said. “My son was actually able to log on briefly, my daughter was not able to log on at all.

Another parent, Amanda Prieto, couldn’t get her two daughters online all morning.

“I am still unable to log in,” she said around 11 a.m. Tuesday. “Teachers were reach for another experience like yesterday so they immediately, within 15 minutes, both of our teachers switched to Zoom.”

Members of the Miami-Dade County School Board were also upset.

“This is still unacceptable and not fair to our students, teachers, administrators, parents and community,” said school board member Mari Tere Rojas. “They deserve better.”

Dr. Martin Karp, also on the school board, said the glitches have tempered with the first day of school excitement.

“Anything that requires such a large scale implementation is something that, maybe through a staggered approach could hav been achieved with greater success,” said Dr. Karp.

Carvalho also held a news conference Monday afternoon to address the online issues, urging parents to have patience.

“This is an implantation that would normally take probably five to six months. We rolled it out in about six to seven weeks,” he said.

The superintendent said Monday’s issues were related to a “Cisco software connectivity switch problem.”

The head of the teachers union is concerned about what she said is a lack of hands-on access.

“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.”

Tuesday’s glitch is now causing some parents to wonder what the rest of the school year will look like.

“They’ve kind of made a joke out of the whole system,” Grossman said. “They had millions of dollars and months to prepare for this. They’re setting a really poor example for the students of Miami-Dade County.”

Meanwhile, school officials are hoping to get students back in the classroom as soon as possible, but only if current COVID trends hold.

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.”

About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.