The first day of classes for students in Metro Nashville Public Schools got off to a shaky start. Families say they had trouble accessing the district’s education platforms, but are trying to remain optimistic about the rest of the semester.
Hardly anyone expected the first day to be perfect or close to normal. But parents like Meaghan Porter didn’t let the oddness of virtual learning stop her family’s school year traditions.
“We still want to maintain that excitement and a routine,” says Porter, who’s daughter attends Hickman Elementary School in Donelson. “She was out of bed, and ready to go and excited to wear a pretty outfit.”
Porter’s daughter Abby is a first grader. She woke up bright and early for pictures, and despite the small technical glitches, seemed happy to finally reconnect with friends.
“I had already gone into the day determined not to judge anything by the first day, or even the first week,” says Porter. “I have worked with technology enough to know that there will be hiccups, especially when you’re working with a very young student population.”
Like many parents, Porter says that the shift to virtual learning will take a lot of time to figure out. She and her husband have personally decided to give the district’s plan a month before making any dramatic changes.
But despite her own first-day hiccups navigating Microsoft Teams, Porter has a home computer and was able to avoid many of the headache-worthy challenges experienced by Metro Schools parents who received laptops from the district.
“Metro had an outage with their server. I’m guessing they didn’t think about the over 80,000 kids signing on to Schoology,” says Latasha Gooch, a parent with two children at Alex Green Elementary in Whites Creek. “It crashed … My children haven’t been able to get on.”
Despite these first day challenges, Gooch says she’s hopeful that virtual learning will work out in the long run.
As of Tuesday, the district had distributed 37,029 laptops to local families and are planning to send out 1,547 more. They’ve also distributed 7,712 hotspots and have about 9,200 more on hand. It’s unclear how many families are still in need of devices, but the district says they’re providing them upon request.
A spokesperson for the district also says that the first day challenges were expected, and that the network issue wasn’t identified until it occurred.
“The issue, which related to the volume of new requests to access our network, did not occur with every device and was resolved quickly after the district became aware of the problem,” says Sean Braisted, a spokesperson for Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Braisted says while he’s “unable to estimate the number of students who may have experienced challenges accessing the network” on Tuesday morning, the district’s help desk received 532 calls and more than 2,000 password reset requests.
“I think once everyone gets comfortable with the technology it’ll be fine,” says Jaclyn Spivey, a parent at Oliver Middle School in South Nashville. “But I also appreciate how well the district has folded in the, “it’s going to take a while for us to get used to this.’ ”
District leaders say schools will be scaling back on academics during the first few weeks of classes to focus on students’ social and emotional learning needs. This transition period will allow families to get used to the new virtual learning environment.
Still, some parents are pushing the district to do more for students, including providing everyone with individualized learning plans.
“The reality is that despite so many promises from elected leaders, the school year is about to start, and our children lack the tools they need to participate in remote learning,” says Sonya Thomas of Nashville PROPEL, a parent advocate group. “This crisis is urgent, and it is real. The already considerable inequities across our school system will only continue to worsen by the day, and we need immediate, decisive action from policymakers to address this urgent problem.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Latasha Gooch’s name.