With school closed in Chambersburg again today because of computer issues, a lot of people are wondering what’s really going on

August 29 – After the Chambersburg Area School District was closed yesterday because of a computer malfunction, the schools are once again closed today. 

The district is advising staff and students not to attempt to log on to school district accounts or access district issued computers or emails or Sapphire, the district portal used to upload grades and attendance.

Could it be ransomware? Who is compromised or what is compromised? 

The answers have not been forthcoming. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I think it’s becoming pretty obvious this is a bigger problem than was originally disclosed on Sunday when the school district said they were going to be closed Monday. We talked about something that just seemed fishy, suspicious about it because if it was merely a computer outage, certainly they would have had technicians all hands on deck Sunday night to get this thing back online. Then when the announcement came yesterday afternoon that they’re going to be closed yet another day, I think that confirms a lot of these suspicions. I also communicated with a couple of district employees yesterday. I’m being told that the phone system is down, email is down, all of the internet, web applications, the Sapphire portal. The whole system is apparently offline, which again suggests to me that this is a very serious problem. I share your complaint though about the district’s communication on this. I was thinking yesterday about the great Lanny Davis, the great public relations crisis manager. He has that famous saying that when you’re in a crisis, say it early, say it all and say yourself. I would say the district is probably violating all three of those basic PR tenets because they’re really not saying anything to the public, which is just fueling more and more speculation. Just a final point, the old saying we don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe there’s some reason that they’re so compromised that they are not able to disclose to the public what’s going on. But if this now spills into another day, if we learn this afternoon that they’re going to be closed again on Wednesday, I think that people are getting restless here. The district is going to have to come out with something more specific to disclose this.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM wondered, “Why can’t we just have students come in, use old fashioned pencils, pens and paper and have teachers who can teach them without all the technological backups? Are we becoming so technologically dependent that we can’t even just go back to what you and I experienced growing up not that many years ago?”

Barkdoll said, “That was my observation yesterday. If the computers are offline, why not allow the kids to still come in? They could do reading, the teachers could still teach things using the chalkboard or the white boards. Now again, I don’t know if there’s some argument if the phone systems are down, other things are down, might the school district think there are safety issues, but I actually like the idea of maybe the kids coming in for a few days and just old fashioned chalk on a chalkboard and paper instruction. I think that can be very useful, but apparently that’s not the direction in which the district is going here.”

Jansen pointed out, “I don’t know that the younger teachers who are so reliant now on technology would even, they would probably be lost. They’re not used to it. It would probably not be as efficient as some of the older teachers who have experienced this in the past. Maybe we should have old fashioned landline backup telephones.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I left a message already. I sent an email. But you gotta you got to talk about this because there is speculation, what’s going on? What’s happening? All the things that are coming at us. I don’t know. I’m very sorry that you’re not having the kind of communication that you should be having. If there’s something going on here, here’s the microphone. Give us a call. Come on in, the water’s warm. We’ll give you the platform.”

Barkdoll added, “I also don’t want to lose sight of the fact what a hardship and disruption this is for some local families and local businesses. They were only in school two days last week. They’re now off two days this week. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? So just imagine the hundreds and hundreds of complications here related to daycare, the parents possibly needing to miss work. I heard from one school official yesterday it looks like they’ve already lost a day of Thanksgiving break. When are they going to make these days up? We’re not even into the winter yet with the snow season. So all of these things are just compounding concerns and headaches for the students and the parents in the district.”

One it’s all said and done, hopefully the information on what happened will be provided so other organizations can learn from the issue, like the Franklin County Commissioners. 

Ryan noted, “I would like to think that whatever’s going on there, somehow or other, either John or Dave or Bob after the dust settles, what happened? What have we learned? So that the school district’s talking to the county and it’s not just we solved it, no problem, move on.”

Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery said, “I’ll tell you in our IT department, it’s one of our biggest concerns. I can’t even log into my email without going through three different passwords and login here and send it through your phone and you get the passcode number and it’s a real pain. But when you see things like this, you understand why. Our security is incredible right now. So hopefully we’ll dig into this after it’s over with and learn from it and hopefully we’re not in a position to be where they are right now.”