As of the sixth day of school, 150 out of 1800 students did not have a working Macbook, according to assistant principal Britton Haney. Although all students were supposed to start the year with a Macbook, many students either had to turn their Macbook into the library for repair or arrived too late to fee payment and did not receive a laptop.
Freshman Mac Muehlberger was given his laptop on the ninth day of school, Aug. 24th, and was one of the last students to get a Macbook. As a result, he was unable to access his online assignments for almost two weeks and had more trouble getting work done at the same rate as his classmates.
“It [kept] me from, well, learning would be an extreme, but you could say that,” Muehlberger said. “It [prevented] me from doing things I need to do in order to succeed in a class.”
Hiles estimated that at the peak of the Macbook troubles around Aug. 17, about one-third of the students didn’t have working Macbooks. He was spending 80 to 90 percent of his day trying to fix Macbooks. At that point, approximately 20 to 25 students came into the library each hour seeking help with their laptops.
The majority of the issues were caused by the age of the Macbooks or the unexpected influx of students who enrolled in the district after Aug. 1st, Haney said. District officials did not respond to an interview request.
East has been using the same Macbooks for four years, and they are beginning to lack the functionality they used to have, according to Hiles.
“We’re just suffering some of those issues with [software] upgrades that come in that really the product is unable to handle,” Hiles said. “I knew we’d have some issues this year but it started earlier than I thought.”
Among the most prevalent of the problems, many of the aging laptops can no longer hold a charge consistently. This failure led to nearly a third of the laptops being uncharged and unable to automatically install an update over the summer which would have ensured that each Macbook had the correct date and time. Without an accurate date and time, the laptops were unable to access the Internet, because the Wi-Fi did not recognize that the Macbooks were in the building.
Working alongside Hiles, Haney spent most of the first two weeks of school in the library. In addition to trying to troubleshoot kids’ Macbook problems, Haney was also responsible for communicating with the district about the supplies that East still needed. On June 1st, technological supplies were ordered for every student enrolled in the SMSD, but as of the first day of school, 200 chargers, 100 Macbooks and 25 cases were still on backorder at Apple.
On top of that, 75 students enrolled at East after Aug.1st, a technological influx that wasn’t accounted for back in June when supplies were ordered. This problem was only exacerbated by the unexpected number of Macbooks that were revealed to be beyond repair when school started. Those Macbooks had to be added to the number of new laptops that needed to be ordered in order to satisfy the growing demand, according to Haney.
There were enough laptops at fee payment for about 95% of the kids who went, Haney said. Already suspecting students might encounter issues logging in, there were members of the Information Technology staff in the library to help solve the problems that students encountered.
“It basically came down to whether you attended fee payment or not and if your English class was in the morning or not,” Haney said. “Because if you didn’t attend fee payment and you have an afternoon English class, unfortunately I [didn’t] have anything for you.”
The major technological issues at school were essentially resolved by Aug. 25, according to Haney. Following a shipment of supplies on Aug. 23 and 24, every student has a Macbook charger, and as of Aug. 29 at 3 PM, only eight students are still waiting on a laptop.
Additionally, almost all Macbooks displaying an inaccurate date and time have been sent to the district’s network analyst and returned functioning. The number of students coming into the library for help every hour has dropped from 20 to 25 to two or three.
Now, Haney and Hiles plan to tackle the main persisting problem: the inability to access Wi-Fi at home. Since they are spending less time working with the more pressing Macbook issues, they expect they’ll have time to meet with students individually to show them how to fix their connectivity issues.
Although the more severe shortage issues have been dealt with, Haney acknowledges there is still work the school and the district have to put in to completely fix the laptops. Despite all the problems, Haney said that students were still getting their work done and teachers made adjustments to fit with the Macbooks.
“We all have those problem solving skills that ages 14 to 72 can do,” Haney said. “There’s still learning going on in the classroom and that’s what we’re excited about.”