Districts navigating massive technology undertaking

BUFFALO (WBEN) - A frustrating morning for Buffalo Public Schools yesterday, as the district website was down for much of the morning on the first day of school.

However, the district's Chief Technology Officer Myra Burden explained the problem was out of their control.

"That was a vendor-related issue that had nothing to do with the district network or anything within the district's network that would have brought our website down," said Burden. "My understanding, based on the information that obtained, is that other school districts throughout the country that used the same provider may have experienced the same issues."

Burden said doesn't anticipate this will be an issue going forward.

The immediate focus for the district now turns to closing as many internet and/or device gaps as possible.

"The hotspots and the internet access issues...in this coming week, we should have it fully resolved," said Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. "There are places where about 3,000-plus families, they are difficult to access through Spectrum, and we've been working tirelessly throughout the summer with Spectrum to try to close those gaps, and we expect that to happen within the next couple days." 

Cash hinted at some "very exciting news" coming up this week from the Buffalo Bills, but he didn't say exactly what that news entails.

Listen to Cash's full interview below:

Niagara Falls City Schools have their first day on Thursday, and Superintendent Mark Laurrie says the district is taking an intentionally slow approach to technology, and really the first couple weeks of school as a whole.

"Of our 2,200 remote students, 1,300 of them said that they want (a device)," Laurrie began. "We have those all prepared, imaged and ready to go for a deployment day probably in about a week or so. Any student that comes into school that doesn't have a device will be able to take and sign one out - sometimes the devices they have at home aren't compatible with our operating systems or our learning modules, so yes, by very early in September, any student that needs one will have one."

In the meantime, Laurrie says teachers will be contacting students as a way to get to know them and check on their well-being prior to really diving into the curriculum.

"What we must realize is that after being off for nearly seven months, the thing that we don't want to do is jump right back into the Pythagorean Theorem - that is counterintuitive to the state of affairs that we're in," he said. "We need to make sure that you're ok, that you have what you need, that you're ready to learn, that your family is set up, that you understand all the processes and procedures, then very soon we'll get back into curriculum."

Listen to Laurrie's full comments below:

As cyber attacks and predatory online practices have increased dramatically throughout the course of the pandemic, there is concern about a completely remote or online model of learning that relies heavily on internet connectivity.

"We have filters that are embedded within the student devices that warn participants from going to certain unapproved and inappropriate websites, and we also have firewalls that protect both internal and external traffic," said Burden. "Kids are very smart, but we believe that we have put all of the protocols and controls in place that we possibly can to minimize the risk of any kind of cyber bullying, cyber attacks or anything like that."

Listen to Burden's full comments below: