School Day Opening Blues


Now that the traditional first full week of school has ended in the US, the press is filled with stories of computer-related problems in to getting children to school and into classes.

For example, Albany High School in Albany, New York was opened for school last Tuesday, but then was shut down for the rest of the week because of a software problem with the program used for creating class schedules for its 2900 students. Too many student had wrong or incomplete schedules for classes to be held. Classes are now scheduled to restart this week.

In Chicago, a computer problem was blamed for sending some student records to the wrong schools. As a result, the affected students when they showed up for class were told that they were not enrolled at the school they thought they were supposed to be. Some students subsequently were told to report to a different school or to go home. This did not make their parents very happy when they found out. It took most of last week to straighten out that mess.

A very similar situation happened to students attending schools in Prince Georges County, Maryland. School officials blamed their problems on a new computer system that the school system had bought.

Hudson County schools in Ohio opened for a week, and then finally had to shut down for a day as its bus transportation system had a nervous breakdown. The school system used new software to generate bus routes in order to save money in the wake of higher fuel costs, but the result that at least 10% of students were never picked up on the first day of class, others were picked up early, while others were instead dropped off late. The school district has now reverted back to using last yearâ''s bus routes.

A few years back, my daughterâ''s school system also â''upgradedâ'' its bus routing software, with about the same results. We went through several bus route iterations, including one where the coordinates of her bus stop placed it neatly 100 feet underground.


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Willie D. Jones