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What To Expect When Baltimore County Students Return To Virtual Learning Wednesday

John Lee

Baltimore County school officials laid out Tuesday what instruction will look like Wednesday when students and teachers return to their virtual classrooms.

A cyberattack last week left the schools’ computer system dead in the water and classes canceled.

Speaking at a news conference at school headquarters in Towson, School Superintendent Darryl Williams said, “Instruction may look and feel different (Wednesday). Because of the new platform, expect a different experience.”

School officials say they have regained access to Schoology, which is where academic content is stored and managed.

“Schoology is the center point of our instructional practice,” said Jim Corns, executive director of the school system’s instructional technology department. “We’ve been able to pivot the way that students log into it so they can once again reconnect with their teachers.

“Their assignments are still present,” Corns continued. “Their grades are still in Schoology.”

He said they also have reestablished their connections with Google Meet, which is used to have virtual classrooms.

Corns said Google Meet and Schoology “are the core function of the way that we present instruction to our students, and the way that we deliver curriculum to our staff.”

On Tuesday, BCPS officials met students and teachers at high schools to check devices.

“Any device that has been deemed held in a ransomware attack we have swapped out,” Corns said.

Cindy Sexton, president of TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said teachers are anxious to get back to their students.

“They’re worried, they’re stressed, they’re frustrated, but they’re going to do the absolute best they can with the resources that they have available to them,” Sexton said.

The cyberattack began Tuesday night of last week. Classes were canceled on Wednesday, and on Monday and Tuesday of this week following the Thanksgiving break.

Williams said the plan for virtual learning Wednesday is to pick up where they left off last week, but that principals will have the flexibility to make changes as students and staff return to virtual learning.

“That may be conversations around social and emotional learning. That may be group meetings. We’re giving that opportunity for our students and staff to reconnect and we’re giving that flexibility to our principals,” Williams said.

“It is important to reestablish those connections between teachers and children, between schools and families, between children and their classmates, and between students and learning.”

Updates on instruction are being posted on the BCPS website.

Superintendent Williams said IT staff will be available during the day Wednesday.

“Mr. Corns and his team, the school staff, and their expertise will be available to help our students and staff through this week,” Williams said.

No further details were offered Tuesday about who is responsible for the ransomware attack and how it was carried out. No one from law enforcement was at the new conference.

“The police aren’t here because they’re working,” Williams said. “They’re looking at every avenue. They’re working with our experts. They’re working with the FBI to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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