Schenectady County

School district loses its link to Web

Mohonasen junior Doug Carlton was having troubles with his printer at home last week, so he decided
Empty chairs are seen at computer work stations in the Mohonasen High School library on Wednesday. The Internet server for the school district has not worked this week, forcing most kids to do computer work at home.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Empty chairs are seen at computer work stations in the Mohonasen High School library on Wednesday. The Internet server for the school district has not worked this week, forcing most kids to do computer work at home.

Mohonasen junior Doug Carlton was having troubles with his printer at home last week, so he decided to submit his term paper via the information superhighway.

But when he got to school the next day, he found the e-mail he sent from home never reached his teacher. Strangely, none of the district’s teachers or administrators had received anything sent to them through Mohonasen’s mail server.

“Of course, that was the day the Internet went down,” lamented Carlton on Wednesday, more than seven days after the entire district was mysteriously disconnected from the World Wide Web.

The district’s four buildings are unable to connect with the Internet or to Mohonasen’s e-mail server, leaving teachers and students without resources they’ve both taken for granted. The district is also removed from the Capital Region BOCES system, meaning its library system cannot locate books and periodicals.

Mohonasen Superintendent Kathleen Spring said the district is not alone, either, among schools within eight BOCES groups belonging to the Northeastern Regional Information Center. The St. Regis Falls Central School District in Franklin County also lacks any connection to the Web; another six districts across New York are experiencing significant difficulties with their connections.

Spring said Verizon, the district’s service provider, hasn’t been able to identify the problem or what might have caused it. Though initially hoping service could soon be restored, her optimism faded after an hour-long teleconference with the company Wednesday.

“Every day we’ve been hopeful this will be the day it comes back on,” she said “But it hasn’t happened yet.”

A spokeswoman from Verizon was unable Wednesday to provide details about the district’s disruption but said technicians are working to resolve the problem.

Spring said the interruption was first detected shortly after school dismissed last week and was initially thought to be a cyber hiccup. District technicians rebooted the school’s servers and quickly realized the problem was out of their hands.

Fortunately, the server problem hasn’t affected the network within each school. Teachers still have access to many of the tools and programs they use within their respective buildings, allowing the disconnect from the Web to remain an inconvenience instead of a major disruption.

“It’s kind of like we’re on our own little island here,” said high school Principal Patrick McGrath.

In some cases, McGrath said the lack of Internet service prompted teachers to give students extensions on projects that require online research. He said the problem is a bit more onerous because the school is reaching the end of the study quarter and preparations are under way for state Regents exams next week.

Rob Buehler, a technology education teacher at the high school, is feeling the pinch. He grew accustomed to using district e-mail to connect with parents over minor student issues, such as grade or progress updates. Now he’s relying on the phone for these short messages, which are now more time consuming.

“You don’t notice it when you have it,” he said during his computer design class. “But when it’s gone, you suddenly realize how much you use it.”

The library is a major example. Card catalogues are from bygone days, but for now, Librarian Emer O’Keefe said books borrowed are being documented on paper to be entered into the mainframe when service is restored. She said finding books is also a challenge without guidance from the library’s search function.

“It’s really bizarre to be without it for so long,” she said. “You get used to it crashing now and then, but not this long.”

O’Keefe said the library’s row of computer terminals — an area that normally buzzes with student activity — has remained mostly empty. She said students are growing increasingly frustrated with the situation as the days pass.

“Students feel kind of bereft that they don’t have the Internet,” she said.

Senior Pat Murray’s frustration was clear as he learned the district’s internet woes were continuing for yet another day. Murray had hoped to work on his world mythology final with some of his free time after school, only to find one of his main resources was inaccessible.

“It’s starting to get annoying,” he said. “It really is.”

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