Multiple press releases were sent from Miami-Dade County Public Schools during the challenging first week of virtual classes. What were initially believed to be connectivity issues Monday, August 31, 2020 with the distance learning platform, My School Online (MSO), were identified as being combined with massive, malicious cyberattacks. The software malfunction was resolved late Monday by the network solutions vendor, Cisco Systems. By Tuesday, September 1st, there was more. “Today, M-DCPS learned from its Internet Service Provider Comcast that our systems had also been targeted by Distributed Denial-of-Service cyber attacks during the first two days of distance learning. This type of attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a network by overwhelming the target with a flood of Internet traffic.”
An intense, multi-agency investigation, led by the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (M-DSPD), was launched as alternatives for classes were rapidly assessed. “Beginning tomorrow, September 3, all students in grades 6-12 will utilize Microsoft Teams, Zoom through Microsoft Teams or an alternate pathway, as determined by each school and teacher, for live instruction. While the K12 platform is suspended for these grade levels, District staff will work with K12 to address all issues that have been detected and generate solutions to optimize the experience as expected. K12 has experienced problems nationally with the system these higher grades utilize for distance learning.
Students in grades Pre-K-5 will continue to use the K12 platform for Class Connect sessions and coursework. Data analysis indicates that while there are still some connectivity challenges in this area for these grades, overall student performance and engagement supports remaining on the platform. Teachers will have an opportunity to provide direct feedback. District staff and K12 managers will actively work to address any issues.
By September 11, the District will make a determination on whether a return to the K12 platform is recommended for grades 6-12, as well as the continued use of the platform for grades Pre-K-5.”
The swift arrest Thursday, September 3, 2020 of a sixteen-year-old South Miami Senior High School student was the result of joint work with the FBI, the Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
"We believe, based upon our investigation, that other attackers are out there. We will not rest until every one of them is caught and brought to justice. Cyber attacks are serious crimes, which have far-reaching negative impacts. Our message to anyone thinking of attempting a criminal act like this is to think twice. We will find you,” said M-DSPD Chief Edwin Lopez.
"I commend our detectives, the FBI, Secret Service, and FDLE for their tireless efforts to pursue those responsible for these attacks. It is disheartening that one of our own students has admitted to intentionally causing this kind of disruption, however, I am confident that he M-DCPS family will continue to show its resilience and commitment to education, in the face of adversity," said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho.
In the midst of frustration and confusion, MDCPS received welcome news. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the “summer meals flexibility waiver”, to allow schools to continue to serve free meals to all children through December 31, 2020.
“The waiver of eligibility rules for children under 18 is particularly important to high-need communities like Miami-Dade County. M-DCPS already provides free breakfast to all students, but this federal waiver will allow schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all children into the fall months, no matter the socio-economic status of their families. This will help ensure all children have access to nutritious food during this difficult time in the community.”
The same rules and procedures used during the summer months will be in effect. Grab-and-go breakfast and lunch pick-ups take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at all at all MDCPS school sites. With nearly seven million free meals provided since the closure of schools in March, the extension of the program helps address the on-going issue of food insecurity within our communities.
As schools enter Week Two, they are seeking parental input. “In an effort to improve the overall user experience in My School Online (MSO) and obtain critical feedback regarding the distance learning platform K12, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has developed a survey for parents of PreK through 5th grade students.
The survey can be accessed by logging in to the Parent Portal at dadeschools.net/parents and is available in English, Spanish or Haitian-Creole. Parents are encouraged to complete one survey per child as soon as possible.
The technical challenges experienced by students, parents, teachers and administrators during the first week of school led to the District's decision to decouple the Pre-K - 5th grade platform from the 6-12th one, for the time being. The District and K12, the third-party vendor, are actively assessing platform issues, with a focus on glitches that were not related to the widespread Internet connectivity problems that hampered distance learning during the first week of school. K12 remains committed to performing a series of improvements to the platform over the course of the week, and M-DCPS will closely monitor their progress through September 11.”
For the most up-to-date information, the Dadeschools mobile app can be downloaded to iPhones or Android devices. Other means areTwitter @mdcps and @miamisup, on Instagram @miamischools and @miamisup, and on Facebook at MiamiSchools and AlbertoCarvalho