Lack of Internet Frustrates both Faculty and Students

I walked into the classroom full of students, retrieved a laptop from the metal box and walked to my desk. As I’m walking I could feel the cold air on my body and see the dread on my peers’ faces. I could already tell what happened, but I needed to confirm it. I quickly sat down and opened my laptop. I sighed in frustration and saw the fearful truth.

The internet had gone out, again.

“I think it’s a huge problem for many reasons,” English teacher Ms. Silva said. “One reason is that students miss out on instruction and also the time that it takes to log in and out repeatedly trying to get in, you also lose instructional time.”

Francis Lewis High School decided to buy its own internet seven years ago because of the technological demands of one of the largest schools in New York City, according to Principal Dr. Marmor.

“The internet that comes to us from the Department of Education is not enough for us,” Dr. Marmor said.  “It’s too small.  We are the second largest school in New York.  We have 12 computer labs. We have hundreds of devices, I’m sorry, thousands of devices.  So we decided to go out and buy our own internet. Seven years ago, we were the first, and I think we may still be the only one who decided to investigate and go out and buy private internet.”

“Our internet service is running right now at what’s called a two gig speed,” Dr. Marmor said. “Two gigabyte speed, which is extremely fast. But because it’s private internet, it doesn’t get filtered by the Department of Education before it gets here.” 

The lack of a consistent internet connection has been an increasingly frustrating problem for both teachers and students.

“We have no internet connection whatsoever so we can’t access any internet to research for our projects and homework,” junior Tiffany Tsui said. “For example in psychology, we do research based on our lessons each day and off the notes.”

Connection issues have also been increasing since the addition of the annex. The annex and the influx of new devices have made using the WiFi more difficult for both faculty and students.

“All of these added internet pressures have exceeded, for the first time, the capacity of the filtering devices,” Dr. Marmor said. “So if you come in at 7:30 the internet works great. If you come in at 2 or 3 when everyone is teaching, it slows down.”

These issues have caused some teachers to “abandon lessons” and “improvise” with no lesson plan in mind, according to Ms. Silva.  Teachers and students alike feel that their productivity has been hindered this school year.

“It has been very challenging,” Ms. Silva said. “I’ve had to abandon lessons and improvise during class because the internet will go out or I am not able to log in.”

Ms. Silva also discussed how she improvises in class, when possible.  

“We refer back to the text because we’re reading a book, so that’s easy in one class,” Ms. Silva added. “In the other class I have, the slides printed out and so I’ll use them to guide the rest of the class. But then the visual element gets lost for kids who are more visual.”

Junior Crystal Yam thinks that there is “no point” in the school investing in technology if the internet is not up to par.  In the past year thousands of devices have been added to the Francis Lewis internet server.

“It just ruins the point of having a laptop if we have no internet and what’s the point of using online sites like Google Classroom and Google docs if you don’t have internet,” Yam said.  “There is no point.”

Some teachers, like English teacher Ms. Prout, have decided to take matters in their own hands by trying not to rely on the internet when teaching.

“I think that the internet problems haven’t affected me as much as other teachers because I learned years ago that this happens a lot,” Ms. Prout said.  “Not just at the school, but other schools. Instead of using Google Slides, I use PowerPoint. I almost always have my slideshow on my computer so that I don’t have to access it online in case the internet goes out. So that’s really helpful.”

“The internet issues only become a problem for me if there’s a video that I want to show from YouTube and I don’t already have that downloaded on the computer,” Ms. Prout added. 

Because Francis Lewis is one of the few schools that runs on a private internet, not the DOE provided WiFi, it is the actual filter that is slowing down the internet.  The filter that filters out inappropriate sites has repeatedly been getting jammed.

“If we buy private internet, it’s not filtered,” Dr. Marmor said. “NYC DOE could not allow full access to the internet. We worked on a pilot program and put in a local device that filters the internet. However, the amount of devices recently implemented in our school exceeded the capacity of the filtering device.”

The filtering device gets jammed as more people enter the school. There is no acceptable replacement so at this moment, students and teachers can only hope their WiFi will work during class.

“I can’t even do my work,” Yam said. “AP Research is the worst when you don’t have internet.”

AP research is not the only class affected recently. Almost every class requires the use of technology and the internet.

“It affects the entire school as a whole,” sophomore Gianna Larida said. “Almost every classroom uses the internet, whether they have a slideshow or video.  Since the internet is kinda really bad here, [teachers] have to cut that out of their lesson plan.”

“For the math growth test, we had to do that at home because the internet wasn’t working at school,” Larida added.  “Like I said in Science Research, we weren’t allowed to use computers for like a week because the internet was not working. It took out about an hour and a half of my life at home, which interfered with my homework and then my own personal time.”

Students have spoken about the inconvenience this causes in their education and how the lack of internet has been a “nuisance,” according to Yam. The WiFi not being adequate is resulting in students having to pay more for their cellular data.

“In my classes I have to use the computer in order to actually go on the website, but since the internet is really messed up, it’s a nuisance,” Yam said. “I have to go on my phone and use my own hotspot, but I don’t like paying for internet.”

Ultimately, the lack of a consistent internet connection at school is affecting everybody’s productivity.

“I feel like I waste a lot of my time trying to just get into the system,” Ms. Silva said.  “So, if you think about all the time that teachers use, that is unpaid time. I spend hours prepping at home and then come here and it doesn’t work. It’s very frustrating.”

Administration is well aware of the matter and has been working to fix the issue. Dr. Marmor believes that the solution is near.

“The administration is fully aware of the damage that the internet problem has caused,” Dr. Marmor said. “We’re fully are aware it has impacted every one of your classes.  It has impacted the College Office that’s having trouble sending college applications. It is impacting all the administration that has trouble getting email. It is impacting your teachers who have lessons that they do on Google Classroom.”

“I do want to make sure that it is clear here that we have basically been spending every single day, all day chasing this problem.  I do believe we are close to the end.”