First Day Of Online School: Some Glitches, Mostly Resolved | New Haven Independent


Thomas Breen PhotoSome students got accidentally booted out of their virtual classrooms. Some teachers struggled with weak internet connections. Some parents rushed from room to room providing “mom support” as kids learned to use new technology.

But overall, the first day of remote school appeared to go as well as could be expected—with teachers and school admins working with families to resolve the technological difficulties.

New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) Superintendent Iline Tracey told the Independent about those tech hiccups—and collaborative resolutions—that occurred as the roughly 21,000-student public school system kicked off all-remote classes on Thursday.

In social media posts and interviews with the Independent, NHPS parents also spoke of the challenges, adjustments, and relief of the first day of all-online classes.

“We were not expecting perfection. There will always be some issues starting out, but as soon as everyone understands the technology, it should go much smoother,” Tracey said.

“Overall, it was successful. We got information back from families that things went very well and that they were very pleased.”

New Haven is scheduled to spend 10 weeks online before transitioning into partial in-person classes as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

By the publication time of this article Friday afternoon, NHPS did not have a total count available of how many of the 20,505 city public school students successfully logged in to classes on the first day.

The Superintendent’s First Day

ZoomTracey spent her first day of school as the official NHPS superintendent popping into physical classrooms to appear in the background of her students’ virtual classrooms.

Tracey visited school buildings in the morning to check on what kinds of issues schools were experiencing. She was surprised to find many teachers broadcasting from their classrooms.

“With all the talk about buildings not being safe, it was interesting that there were teachers who really wanted to use the devices in school,” Tracey said.

The majority of NHPS teachers are extremely concerned about ventilation and cleaning in school buildings if they need to teach in-person classes, according to a survey by the New Haven Federation of Teachers. However, the union found that teachers were most worried about interactions with noncompliant students, like students who refuse to wear a face mask.

Tracey’s team has been working to check and double-check that the school buildings have new air filters, stockpiles of hand sanitizer and other Covid-era safety measures. She has said that she wanted to start the year with some in-person classes but is waiting for all of the city’s Board of Education members to agree that the classes would be safe enough.

Tracey said that the best part of her day Thursday was seeing how happy students were on their Google Classroom calls.

“Kids were talking to other kids. You could see their excitement,” Tracey said. “They were really happy to see their friends and get connected.”

Some families experienced technical difficulties as students tried to attend classes on Google Classroom. While students used Google Classroom after Covid-19 closed schools in the spring, Thursday was the first day of live virtual classes for all 21,000 students.

Some students got accidentally booted out of their classrooms, and some teachers found that their school buildings had weak internet connections. Tracey said that the district’s technology team is working on both issues.

“Teachers were great in supporting families. There was a great level of support that we noticed across schools,” Tracey said.

She had news that the district’s iPads, which were on back-order, were delivered on Thursday. She has emphasized that iPads are more developmentally appropriate as learning devices for students under first grade, but schools have been giving out Chromebooks to young students until the iPads come in.

This completes Tracey’s goal of making sure every student in the district has a computer or tablet, one of the major roadblocks preventing full attendance in the spring.

“I am proud,” Tracey said. “I kept my promise of 1:1 for all our students.”

Tracey asked any families who experience technical difficulties in the coming days to seek help at this website.

“I’m asking that parents bear with us as we work through some of the challenges,” she said.

Resolving Glitches

Emily Hays PhotoParents seem mostly impressed by the level of preparation they are seeing at their children’s schools.

A poll on City Wide Parent Team’s Facebook group showed 27 families voting as having complete confidence in their schools, and four wishing their schools had prepared more.

In comments on Facebook, parents talked about their kids getting shut out of Google Classroom or experiencing other technical challenges. They often added that their school helped them fix the issue.

“The kids kept getting kicked out of class,” wrote Wilbur Cross parent Lisamarie Vidro.

“I have to say the teachers were great with the response via email while this was going on,” Vidro added, and thanked Wilbur Cross for the help.

Another parent described the difficulty of handling technical issues while working out of the house.

Troup mother Maria Charron agreed by phone that having an adult at home was helpful. Charron said that her three children were nervous about using new technology on their first day and had trouble logging in.

“I spent the entire morning running from room to room to be able to help each one of my kids,” Charron said. “After a few hours, they felt better knowing that the teachers were very patient and they were learning how to manage together. Also having mom support is a big add.”

Charron said that the second day of school went better than the first.

“The kids started the day more confident on what to do,” Charron said.

Luke Austin’s 6-year-old daughter, Yvonne Michelle Austin, could not get into her virtual classrooms at all on Thursday.

His wife, Michelle, was about to give up and take the computer to the school when something clicked on Friday morning, just before classes were about to start, according to Austin.

Austin was running errands for most of the day but got to see his daughter’s joy at reconnecting with her friends and teachers at Bishop Woods Architecture & Design Magnet School.

“It takes some of the monotony out of it,” Austin said. “She said, ‘Oh daddy, see my new friends, my new teacher!’ She’s so excited.”