District network overwhelmed by personal devices

Internet outages occasionally happen at OHS, but district staff decided that something needed to change after last week’s network downtime.

Earlier this year, many students were disappointed that seniors would not receive laptops with the rest of the school due to insufficient funds. As an alternative, some of them have started using their personal devices in the classroom instead.

On Jan. 12, these students found themselves unable to connect to the internet. This meant they were not able to complete online assignments using Google Drive, Google Classroom, or other tools used by teachers.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience experienced today by the restriction of personal devices from the district’s network,” senior principal Ross Bullington said in an email sent out after school that day.

Bullington explained that an influx of personal devices on the district’s network forced administrators to cut off personal devices in order to keep official district computers operational.

“District IT staff were able to identify over 4000 personal devices on the network,” Bullington said, “accounting for nearly 40% of all devices on the network.”

In addition to cutting off personal devices, superintendent Dr. Gaines has directed the IT department to block access to music and video streaming websites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime on the district’s network. Some teachers were initially frustrated that YouTube was blocked as well, but that website was later removed from the list after district staff saw how many teachers used it in their lesson plans.

As for the students, seniors will be able to use the school’s Wi-Fi for the rest of the year.

“Seniors were not issued district devices, so we opened this for those that may use their personal devices in the classroom,” Steven Lee, Director of Technology Services, said. Lee declined to answer how the rest of the student body will be prevented from accessing the network, only adding, “The guest network will likely be shut down as well or extremely slowed down.”

Lee said that most districts in the area do not allow student devices onto the school network unless they are doing a Bring Your Own Device program. Mehlville is not doing a BYOD program, and is instead continuing to expand its 1-2-1 program instead.

Still, some students are curious what exact problems the network was having and how difficult it would be to fix them. In his initial email, Bullington stated that the school’s internet bandwidth is not the issue, but Lee declined to specify what the issue actually was, citing security concerns.

“We have identified the bottleneck…” Lee said, going on to explain that upgrading the affected equipment will be expensive. “We are a few weeks from being able to purchase this equipment…”

It is unclear whether students will be given personal access to the Wi-Fi again after those upgrades are completed, but for now, students and guests will have to use their own data plans to access the internet on their phones.