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LYNN — The city’s third- through eighth-graders will likely take their MCAS exams on paper as the school system continues to struggle without Internet access.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said his optimism for a computer-based MCAS is “pretty low” after a computer virus caused the district to shut down its Internet connection last week.

The virus has already delayed the testing for two days for the city’s high schools this week and left those students taking the MCAS on paper.

It appears the elementary and middle schools will face a similar scenario.

“(Those) principals have been directed to plan for paper,” Tutwiler told the School Committee on Thursday night.

City Hall has given the school department use of their computers to conduct payroll and to print documents, and North Shore Community College has donated lab space for special education teachers to get work done for students on Individualized Education Programs (IEP).

“You get a real sense of how much you rely on the virtual world when you don’t have it anymore,” Tutwiler said. “We’ve been surviving. We’ve been finding ways over the past week to make it work. Is it ideal? No, it hurts.”

Lynn Public Schools is still without Internet and has switched to a second, third-party cyber security vendor to fix the virus and figure out where and how it started, based on the recommendation of its insurance company.

Although Tutwiler credits the first vendor, Crowdstrike, with getting started on work to remediate the virus over the weekend, he said the switch to a second vendor, Charles River Associates, was necessary because the district learned on Wednesday that Crowdstrike could not operate on a timeline to meet Lynn’s needs.

Charles River Associates began working at the schools on Thursday.

“It would have been weeks before (Crowdstrike) could have lent us the type of support we needed from (Charles River Associates) today,” Tutwiler said.

Last Wednesday, the administration was made aware of a computer virus in the high schools and some of the elementary schools and shut down all Internet to keep it from spreading.

The city’s high schools were scheduled to take the MCAS exams online Tuesday and Wednesday, but got approval from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to switch to paper exams for Thursday and Friday.

Tutwiler has sought approval for the same switch for grades three through eight and is awaiting further instructions.

In the meantime, he credited teachers with finding creative ways to continue student learning without technology.

 

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