The following email was sent from the Howard County Public School System:

Update on the Impact of In-Person Instruction on the HCPSS Network Bandwidth

Dear HCPSS Families:

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We are writing to provide you with an update on the impact of hybrid instruction on the HCPSS network bandwidth.

As HCPSS continues the staggered return of students to in-person instruction, HCPSS Information Technology (IT), in partnership with HCPSS’ area network (WAN) provider, Howard County Government, have been continuously monitoring bandwidth usage on the County’s network. We have seen a substantial increase in bandwidth usage due to a large volume of in-person students using the HCPSS network to log in to Google Meet sessions.

To mitigate the impact on network performance, HCPSS has begun the process of acquiring additional network bandwidth. In the meantime, immediate action is necessary to prevent a disruption in network reliability for HCPSS staff and students and resolve the issue in the short term.

Teachers will be supporting this effort by asking students who attend school in person not to log in to Google Meet sessions and instead streaming videos for in-person students using the classroom LCD projector when possible. Additional measures include encouraging students attending in person to turn off their cameras if they need to be logged in to Google Meet, and providing links through the Canvas course rather than through the Google Meet chat function.

Additionally, effective Monday, March 22, HCPSS will take these actions:

• Adjust the Google Meet default video quality setting to a lower video quality setting.

• Block students’ access to Facebook and monitor the impact of other social media and streaming sites to determine if additional restrictions are needed.

We recognize there may be times the applications HCPSS is using for virtual learning may not work as anticipated. If your child has difficulty, have them send their teacher a Canvas message or email to make them aware. We know this may be stressful for both you and your child, and ask for your patience as we work through any challenges that may arise. HCPSS teachers and administrators will be understanding and flexible if interruptions to technology services cause delays in assignment submissions and missed virtual learning sessions.

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Here are images of the email sent out (used to OCR for the text above):

My thoughts on this announcement:

An email sent to families but this information is not posted in the “News” section of the HCPSS website. I always wonder why this is the case when this happens.

The significant increase in network bandwidth should have been anticipated and dealt with prior to bringing students back to in-person learning. The plan that was put in place (having students in classrooms using Google Meet) is the reason and should have been part of the planning process. Obviously some of this was anticipated (Howard County School System to block Netflix, TikTok and other video streaming websites on the HCPSS network and HCPSS issued devices) but not the full impact of Google Meet, other social media channels and external websites used during the day by students and staff.

As frustrating as this seems (to some) this is all a “learn as we go” situation we are all in during this pandemic. I am sure the school system is working hard to deal with and address this situation and hopefully we get additional announcements of how things improve in the near future.

I am happy to see the school system work with Howard County Government (HoCoGov) to increase the bandwidth in schools. Additional bandwidth always a good thing and something that the school system can use in the future. I hope to hear from HoCoGov Department of Technology and Communication Services (DTCS) on this issue. This would make a great joint announcement of the increased necessary bandwidth for the school system.

Scott E

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry! This is just bad planning by HCPSS….and I’m not surprised. If they would have looked at any of the “data” from the IPad Pilot schools, they would have seen that bandwidth was a problem back then….before Google Meets, Zoom and TikTok even became a thing. What good was it to guinea pig children with that stupid IPad Pilot if they weren’t going to use ALL of the “data” to “inform”? Guess it was just HCPSS and Renee Foose wasting money by chasing the newest education du jour scheme of the year and when it didn’t work out, everyone just tossed it all into the trash heap and forgot about all of the wasted time, $$$ and precious “data”. There was a lot to be learned from that disastrous program…even if it wasn’t good. So glad my kids are out of the system.

  2. I agree with Lisa. Maryland schools (K-12) received $750 million in Covid relief in January. Millions more are coming per the latest bill. It does not take an genius to understand that if there is going to be an increased use of technology based instructions, it would require more bandwidth. Rushing to open schools without the necessary infrastructure is extremely poor planning. Not only that, there appears to be a complete lack of accountability on this issue. And the buck gets passed to the children who will end up watching a screen in school, reduced video quality, etc. etc. So if Dr. Martirano (Superintendent) wants to pass the blame to his Deputy, Karalee Turner-Little, who oversees the Office of Information Technology, who passes it on to Thomas McNeal who oversees the emergency planning for school sites, who absolves himself by saying it’s a technology (and not a planning issue) and passes it on to Julie Wray, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, and so on. Meanwhile we have a Board that just rubber stamps everything. Who elected these people? For those of you who are still reading, make up your own mind to see if these reduced services meet HCPSS’s own stated standards at: https://www.hcpss.org/academics/instructional-technology/ or are they a cop-out.

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