Special education teachers get ready for school in wake of malware attack

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HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) -- Houston County teachers came together Wednesday morning in Ashford for their annual teacher institute.

The topic on everyone's mind - a malware attack on the county school system's network.

Superintendent David Sewell briefly mentioned it at the beginning of the institute.

He warned teachers about making sure they hear things about the hack from the board first, rather than from social media.

At a training session for special education teachers later in the afternoon, it was a bigger topic of conversation.

It was a morning full of laughter at Watermark Baptist Church as Houston County teachers gathered for the annual teacher institute.

They heard from a motivational speaker about the impact a teacher can make in the lives of students.

Making that difference may be more of a challenge at the start of this year, with all of the system's computers and phones still down after a malware attack knocked them out last Tuesday.

"I think with being in special education, the biggest hurdle is not being able to access our database that is computer based with all of our special education records," said Ashford Elementary and High Speech Pathologist Krystal Burgess.

Krystal Burgess and the rest of the system's special education teachers gathered for professional development at the Houston County Career Center after the teacher institute.

There were a few less laughs there, as teachers discussed how to go about getting ready for school without technology.

Burgess has hard copies with details on the needs of students that were already in the system, but ones coming in this year...

"If we have a student that comes the first day of school and enrolls and we don't have quick access to their records, it makes it harder to be ready to provide them with the specialized instruction that they need,” said Burgess.

Krystal said a teacher from another district offered to get a copy of an incoming special need student's record from her school, and drive it to Houston County.

But that's not the only hurdle...

"If you send your kids back to school, especially our children with special needs and medical needs, how would the parents contact us? They would have to have our cell phone numbers,” said Burgess. “You wouldn't be able to call the school."

Burgess also mentioned teachers do a child count to get special education funding from the state, so she needs the data on new students to get adequate funding.

"There's always a fear of your technology going down, but it's usually a short term thing,” said Burgess. “It's usually, the internet is down today, but we'll get this done tomorrow."

There is just a little bit of good news.

The district Assessment and Accountability Supervisor Cas Haddock told the teachers he was able to bring in a personal lap top and use his phone as a hot spot to access the database.

Burgess said she hasn't been given the green light to try that just yet.

Superintendent David Sewell estimates it will take three weeks to get the database back up and all the computers working.

School starts August 12th for students.

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