LISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing said the Friday before the start of school, the district was assured by their technology vendors that everything was set for the first day of school on Aug. 13, but at 3 p.m. the day before school started, the vendor notified the district of their technology need miscalculations after the vendor experienced a failure at another district it was working with.
“We had anticipated starting the school year smoothly and obviously that didn’t happen,” Gearing said.
Gearing said the biggest issue was with server bandwidth, to which the district did not have enough to get 18,000 computers online on the first day of school. Since notified, LISD has doubled its internet pipe bandwidth and added 15 servers, including 10 hosted at the vendors' site, LISD Chief Technology Officer Jason Miller said. The district started with 12 servers, he added. The additional servers and bandwidth came at no additional cost to the district, Miller said.
Gearing said the district did not face these challenges in the spring as learning was asynchronous—or not occurring at the same time—but was open to be completed at the chosen pace of the student. With the fall synchronous learning requiring all students to be logged on at the same time, the district’s previous bandwidth could not handle it.
“I understand breakdowns, but I do not understand a school district of 42,000 [students] and having spent millions of dollars getting our technology where it needs to be and in the first two days of schools we don’t have enough bandwidth and our vendors didn’t understand where we needed to be to make this work,” said LISD Board Member Pam Waggoner.
While Gearing and Miller admitted it was a misstep by the district on not verifying how much bandwidth it needed to get classes online smoothly with their own calculation, when the district was notified of the issues, the focus was to find solutions before dwelling on the mistakes.
“We certainly have a lot of things to fix, and we are certainly not shy of admitting that or of admitting that we are going to get better every single day,” Gearing said. “Our goal is to make 20-21 a memorable year.”
Miller added that he is working on other solutions to improve the district’s technology stumbles. This includes moving servers to the cloud as well as updating outdated technology in the district’s technology hub. He said he plans to offer the board a plan of action on what the district can do to improve technology as well as associated costs as early as next week during the board’s regular meeting.
Once vendors are selected, Miller said the process would likely take 3-4 weeks before new technology or technology changes are implemented.
LISD’s first day of virtual learning for all but high school students began Aug. 13. The first day of school for high schoolers was Aug. 17. The planned first day of in-person classes is Sept. 5.