Wifi worries crippled FHC a few weeks ago

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 Reconnecting, reconnecting, reconnecting.

For senior Kelsie Kingma, this is the only message that would appear on her computer while trying to complete her online class. Although the inconsistencies of the wifi have subsided, the effects still linger, and Kelsie has found herself two weeks behind and still catching up. The wifi outage is to blame.

Another online student who has fallen behind is senior Lejla Velic. During this time, she was entirely unable to access her class.

“[It was] frustrating because I fell behind,” Lejla said. “It was just super annoying because my teacher kept trying to get us to do classwork, and the wifi wasn’t working.”

Both Lejla and Kelsie agreed that the wifi outage caused major problems for teachers as well.

“Another thing,” Kelsie said, “was that not all teachers’ wifi was working, so half the class couldn’t do assignments. Then it got marked late; it was so annoying.”

Students were obviously frustrated by the trouble. However, teachers were upset too, and the teacher most affected was online teacher Andrew Belsito. His students rely on the internet every day, and without it, cannot complete assignments.

The two biggest frustrations were the duration—the length of time it was taking, but also the sporadicity of it.”

— Andrew Belsito

“For the most part, the students that were taking the online courses really just had to find [that] it gave them time to work on other classes,” Belsito said. “It just gave them time to stay on top of homework or assignments or reviewing for really all the other classes. Then, they can hopefully manage their time so that they have the time that they would be doing their other homework, they can use for their Michigan Virtual Course because they weren’t able to access that here.”

Belsito was very frustrated and upset by the unsolved issues.

“The two biggest frustrations were the length of time it was taking, but also the sporadicity of it,” Belsito said. “The fact that the internet would go up for five to ten minutes then it would crash for an hour [was annoying]. Just the up and down nature of it was probably one of the most frustrating things about it because you’d get motivated and focused and say ‘Hey, alright, I just wasted all this time now I need to make up for it,’ then you can’t do anything.”

Teachers like Belsito sent in technology requests, and principal Steve Pasinault did all he could. But communication was difficult. He—along with the office staff—was also affected by the dilemma.

“We had some frustrations because we rely a lot on [the wifi for things like] being able to look up student information [and] communications with parents and other employees,” Passinault said. “We rely a lot on Powerschool for our daily operations, and our attendance office couldn’t get on to what we needed to track and take attendance.”

The problem was unknown, which made finding a solution even harder.

“I was able to communicate, or at least try to keep communication lines open to our staff,” Passinault said, “but we didn’t know, day to day [what would work.]”

Passinalut sent in a report, and on the receiving end of that report was Susan Bordewyk—the Director of Technology.

Bordewyk has been in her position for eight years, and this same issue has only been experienced one other time; however, the connectivity troubles only lasted three days.

Forest Hills’ wifi is provided by a third-party provider, so the technology office worked alongside that company to get things running again. Since the cause was unknown, it took many attempts of trial and error to find a solution that stuck.

“One challenge was trying to troubleshoot and apply potential fixes while service was going up and down,” Bordewyk said. “Service disruptions can be caused by a number of different issues that may not even be occurring inside the district or its own facilities. Possible causes may stem from power outages, damaged cabling, equipment failures, internet traffic congestion or cyberattacks.”

The cause of the outage still remains unknown, but so far the solution has succeeded. 

If there is one thing that this difficulty has brought is a realization for many on how essential wifi is to education nowadays. Online classes were clearly affected; however, regular classes also felt the effects. Most teachers rely on Google Classroom, but the complications rendered this resource useless during the school day.

Beyond the classroom, the functionality of the school was hindered. Both grading and attendance are done through Powerschool. Updating grades halted during school hours. Attendance Secretary Marlene Boerson was unable to keep track of attendance or get into Powerschool. 

Without wifi, FHC’s productivity was crippled. Even projects that were being done outside of the classroom were being affected. For example, the construction of the new stadium was slowed due to internet issues.

“That’s one of the problems now if we have people that visit us from the outside,” Passinault said. “The other day we were meeting with a group from the architecture company that’s going to help us with the stadium, and they’re not able to log on as guests so we kinda had to help them go through with one of the district employees to be able to that.”

Right now, FH Guest still is not up and running, but the technology department is working on it; they hope to improve it as soon as possible.

“Technology, I think, is just one of those things that’s so complex when it comes to the firewalls and the hacking and the viruses and all that stuff that can happen that can have an impact on the internet functionality,” Passinault said. “That’s why we encourage students to study and learn about computer science because there are a lot of jobs and careers that people have made just out of being able to understand and troubleshoot.”