This Site can’t be Reached…….. Or Can it?

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Sarah D'Souza, Editor-in-Chief

For years, MCPS has been implementing filters to Chromebooks which limit the websites students can visit in order to minimize distractions and to safeguard students.

This year in particular, RHS has experienced an uptick in its use of Chromebooks in order to make technology more accessible in the classroom. In turn, students and staff have encountered new hurdles when navigating the internet due to the most recent MCPS filters.

Some of the filters applied since January have been limiting students’ abilities to do classwork through Chromebooks. For example, one filter update was that students and teachers can only log into their MCPS email on Chromebooks, blocking logins for personal emails. Furthermore, students cannot log onto their MCPS email if using another student’s logged-in Chromebook.

As students and teachers began experiencing these difficulties, they contacted Lomax for help.

“I was told that you guys could log into your personal accounts the whole beginning of the year. Around the same time that they started to implement this new filter is the time that you guys couldn’t log in to your personal accounts,” IT systems specialist Jennifer Lomax said. “That’s when I sent in an email about the Yahoo, the Bing, and the personal email accounts. They told me Yahoo and Bing were being blocked on purpose.”

As students and teachers began experiencing these difficulties, they contacted Lomax for help. Lomax then filled out a help desk ticket with Unicenter, the technology support office, to ask about the new changes.

However, the response was that students and staff were never supposed to have access to their personal emails on Chromebooks and that the filters were put in place to keep the system secure.

After these concerns with the new Chromebook restrictions were brought up to principal Billie-Jean Bensen, she contacted the MCPS Office of Technology. The Office responded by saying that it was a unanimous decision that schools countywide would not have access to their personal accounts for security reasons. While Bensen supported the emphasis on securing the network, she still said that the restriction caused conflicts with student learning.

“I said [to the Office of Technology], “I turned in an entire cart of laptops in late August, early September because your office was advocating that Chromebooks can do everything…You’ve changed the rules halfway through the game here,a��” Bensen said. “It’s January, I’ve got a newspaper, the yearbook, I even used SGA as another group of students who were working on fundraisers and getting advertisements for things and are constantly– as part of a class– as not even that it’s just after school, but that students within their classwork during the school day, have this issue and can’t get out.”

Bensen and the county went on to discuss that the restrictions were affecting classwork instruction, and MCPS agreed to reopen access to personal emails at RHS for the rest of the school year.

Bensen and the county went on to discuss that the restrictions were affecting classwork instruction, and MCPS agreed to reopen access to personal emails at RHS for the rest of the school year.

However, RHS is supposed to undergo Tech Mod, where older pieces of technology are replaced with newer versions, possibly over this summer which could affect the school.

Tech Mod is supposed to happen around every four years, but the last one took place in 2013, and was pushed back a year due to budgetary constraints.

“This year, [Tech Mod is]going to be a bigger issue because Chromebooks now count toward our inventory, so a lot of places where I have the older computers, we’re probably just going to have to get rid of them,” Lomax said.”When they do Tech Mod, they count computers versus student ratio, and this year our Chromebooks will count toward our ratio, which will hurt in the end when it comes to PCs (personal computers).”