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Baltimore County public school officials ask families, staff for patience as classes resume Wednesday

Baltimore County Public Schools central office staff form a line that wraps around Building E on the Greenwood campus to get their computers checked for malware. Online classes were shut down last week by ransomware, but will resume Wednesday.
Baltimore County Public Schools central office staff form a line that wraps around Building E on the Greenwood campus to get their computers checked for malware. Online classes were shut down last week by ransomware, but will resume Wednesday. (Amy Davis)

Baltimore County school leaders say instruction “may look different” Wednesday when classes resume for all students following last week’s extensive ransomware attack on the school network.

Officials have established a new method for the school system’s approximately 115,000 students to log onto its learning management system, Schoology, and Google platforms, which have allowed courses to be held online since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The programs are cloud-based, meaning grades and lesson plans saved in the system appear to be accessible, said James Corns, the school system’s executive director of information technology, during a news conference Tuesday.

Wednesday’s class schedule will echo the one planned for the day before Thanksgiving, when schools were abruptly closed because of the ransomware attack, Superintendent Darryl Williams said during the conference.

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Classes were canceled for three school days because of the attack.

James Corns, executive director of the Department of Information Technology at Baltimore County Public Schools, provides updates on the response to the ransomware attack that closed the schools last week, as Superintendent Darryl L. Williams looks on at left. Online classes will resume on Wednesday.
James Corns, executive director of the Department of Information Technology at Baltimore County Public Schools, provides updates on the response to the ransomware attack that closed the schools last week, as Superintendent Darryl L. Williams looks on at left. Online classes will resume on Wednesday. (Amy Davis)

Williams asked teachers and staff to remain flexible Wednesday as students and families navigate the new protocols for logging in.

“Because of the new platform, expect a different experience,” Williams said.

Williams also said that officials do not anticipate a delay for staff payroll this week, but cautioned that problems could still arise.

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“As a large system, you can imagine there may be some wrinkles in this process,” he said.

The school system’s information technology team brought educators to school buildings in shifts Monday and Tuesday to swap out compromised laptops and devices for new Chromebooks, which had been delivered recently, Corns said.

Students and families also were asked to perform a series of “confidence checks” on some system-issued devices. Some information technology experts have cautioned against having untrained individuals perform such checks because it increases the odds of someone making a mistake.

Corns said his team has a high degree of confidence that student devices were not impacted by the ransomware attack. Families that were uneasy with performing the checks had been asked to bring the devices to their nearest Baltimore County public high school Tuesday afternoon.

Officials declined to identify how many devices had been swapped for new ones, but Williams called the checks “successful.”

Gov. Larry Hogan Hogan said Tuesday that his administration has been assisting county schools in an advisory capacity on the ransomware issue.

Investigators have released few details about the ransomware attack, including whether sensitive personal information, student transcripts and individualized education plans have been stolen or lost completely. School administrators have said the attack affected many parts of its network.

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