Technical issues continue to plague HISD students, parents and teachers

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BySteve Campion KTRK logo
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Houston teachers report failures and successes in virtual learning
Teachers across southeast Texas especially those with the Houston Independent School District continue to adjust to virtual instruction.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston ISD parents, teachers and students were hoping the second day of online learning would go smoother than the first day back to school. However, some technical issues still existed.

Jennifer Swallen, an HISD parent, said she did not have any technical issues in her household, but it is all hands-on-deck as she walks her two young students through day two.

"I have a third grader and he still needs a lot of help. I cannot imagine if I was not home with him and he had to do this on his own," Swallen said.

An online portal did have a message that there was a partial outage Wednesday morning through the afternoon. The district sent a second response Wednesday evening to ABC13.

"One of the district's third-party vendors, a learning management system, experienced degraded performance in parts of its application today. The company identified the problem, and a fix was implemented. Students will be able to continue accessing the site at

Additionally, we have learned of instances of virtual classes being hacked on certain platforms which the district does not endorse for virtual instruction. We have not heard of hacking incidents occurring on Microsoft Teams which is the district's standard. HISD continues to work with its vendors and partners to resolve all issues as they arise.

We thank our students and their families for their continued patience."

WATCH: HISD students complain about second day of issues with virtual learning

Watch the video above to see why one HISD student says she's frustrated with the district and the virtual learning process.

Houston ISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said this is the year of 'flexibility' and that outages are only something that school leaders can react to as they happen.

SEE ALSO: HISD website crashes on first day of virtual learning

In HISD, the school board is scheduled to meet on Thursday. One of the items on the agenda is for the board to look into the possibility of extending online learning, if the district needs to. Right now, the district plans to phase students back into the classroom on Oct. 19. Houston ISD released a statement Wednesday evening ahead of the board meeting:

"Currently, HISD is scheduled to begin in-person instruction on October 19, 2020, pending COVID-19 conditions. Item A2 requests the Board of Education to provide flexibility to extend the virtual learning period for an additional two weeks if that becomes necessary based on recommendations from health authorities. As announced on July 15th, the plan to provide face-to-face instruction beginning on October 19th has not changed.

The agenda item also requests that the board approve virtual instruction on election day in November to accommodate voters and maintain safe conditions for students and staff amid COVID-19 conditions."

If you'd like to address the board, you can sign up to speak at the meeting.

While day two brought some problems like logging into virtual learning modules, ABC13 talked to some stakeholders who said they were more prepared for those issues.

"It's not that bad because we've expected everything," said parent Margarita Falcon.

Falcon's children had issues on Tuesday with virtual learning after Houston ISD reported an outage. It wasn't the best start to the school year for her children and countless others.

RELATED: HISD can only react to issues like 1st day outage, superintendent says

"Schools are stressed out, parents are stressed out, kids are stressed out, and it just wasn't a great day," Falcon said.

While Falcon echoed other perspectives we heard, she said her teachers and kids were ready this time.

"I picked up some things that I know that I'll be doing myself to make things easier," Falcon said. "A lot of talking to my children, letting them know it's OK if something goes bad, it's OK because, you know, my 11-year-old is bored and stressed out."

SEE ALSO: Parents and schools share their 'hacks' to improve online learning for everyone

Daniel Santos is an 8th grade social studies teacher at Navarro Middle School. He said the start of this academic year has proved challenging.

"To summarize the experience, it's frustration by the teachers, the students, and even some of the parents reaching out," said Santos. "What is happening with this platform? We've had all this time to prepare, or at least the vendor (has). This is the result. Two days in a row, (ItsLearning) has crashed. I've been up to midnight -- literally one in the morning last night grading work that was submitted."

Falcon and other parents said they expect things to get better as everyone gets used to this new way of learning.

"We are one of the largest school districts the country, and there's no excuse for it not to get better," Falcon said.

Student Sky Guerra, 16, said she has been doing online learning for a couple of weeks now through New Caney ISD. Her younger brother goes to school in Houston ISD and she said it's a tough transition. She added the online classes last all day, followed by online homework.

"it's been very stressful," Sky said. "It's not even about a learning experience anymore and bettering yourself. It's just trying to get the assignments in to get the grade."

She hopes school districts will allot for more break times for students to process the information, and for their mental health.

"I feel like there are more cons than pros in this situation," Sky said.

In northeast Harris County, Sheldon ISD officials posted a notice to Facebook that student absences this week would be excused as everyone works to acclimate to virtual learning. A spokesperson for the district told ABC13 they have not experience any technical issues.

"Students will be given extra time to make up work missed for the week because of technical difficulties," officials wrote in the Facebook post.

Other teachers, like 9th grade algebra teacher Rebecca Ingle, described the first few days as smooth sailing. Ingle works at Cesar Chavez High School and said she relies mostly on Microsoft Teams for instruction purposes.

"I was pleasantly surprised," said Ingle. "Even though there were definitely technology snafus with some of the larger systems shutting down, most of my students were able to get into our classes."

Ingle is like many educators who want to return to the classroom when it is safe to do so.

"In order for us to return safely, there are certain assurances I'm really looking for to keep students and staff safe," said Ingle. "Ideally, I want policies and procedures that were made with stakeholder engagement that include the teachers, the school leaders, and the people that they're going to impact."

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