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NY: IBM Blamed for Snow Day Remote Learning Debacle

Published: February 14, 2024
Kids make a snowman outside a house in Tappan, New York, on Feb.13, 2024. Millions of people in the northeastern US were engulfed by snow on Feb. 13 as a powerful winter storm battered the region causing flight cancellations and closing schools. (Image: KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

On Feb. 13, as a snowstorm descended on New York City, public school students were told to stay home and attend classes remotely for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when the nearly one million students attempted to log on many were greeted with with the words, “service unavailable” while others reported issues accessing essential online platforms such as Google Classroom and city authorities are placing the blame squarely at IBM’s feet. 

Adam Bergstein, an English teacher at Forest Hills High School in Queens, told the NY Post, “Perhaps the DOE should just let kids have a snow day. But what do they give us? A system that fails and crashes miserably.”

“The New York City Department of Education (DOE) has literally screwed up the recipe for ice. That sums up the NYC DOE.”

However, according to Schools Chancellor, David Banks, IBM is to blame for the debacle. Banks insisted that the DOE had “checked all the boxes” and was prepared for the influx of remote learners and that it was IBM that “was not ready for primetime.”

According to the NY Post, Banks said, “I want to apologize to all the parents and families. As I said, this was a test. I don’t think that we passed this test.”

“We told them (IBM) that almost 1 million students between 7:30 and 8:00 would be coming online to go to school,” Banks said. “To say that I am disappointed, frustrated and angry is an understatement.”

The DOE issued an alert via X — formerly known as Twitter — just 30 minutes after the school day started acknowledging that students were having issues logging in, stating that “services that require IBM authentication to login,” were the culprit. 

“For context: IBM provides support to validate NYCPS users logging in to NYCPS systems (Single Sign On) and verifying the user name and password,” the DOE posted to X.

Later on Tuesday, IBM took responsibility for the snow day chaos, with a spokesperson saying that the company had worked “closely with New York City schools to address this situation as quickly as possible.” 

“The issues have been largely resolved, and we regret the inconvenience to students and parents across the city,” the spokesperson said. 


Just call a traditional snow day

Parents were quick to lash out at DOE officials and Mayor Eric Adams for the debacle, and asked why authorities didn’t simply call a traditional snow day.

Banks said that calling a traditional snow day is no longer possible due in part to new holidays being added to the schedule — such as Diwali — and that students need to attend a minimum of 180 days per year.

“It’s not as easy as simply saying, you know, just take this day just add it later on,” Banks told reporters. 

One NYC parent wasn’t having it and posted to Instagram, “What’s next? Homework on Christmas? Math class on New Year’s Day? I’m disgusted that it’s even suggested that parents should be homeschooling today. My son will have a snow day just like I did and just like @nycmayor did when he was a kid. Let the kids play!!!”

When Deana Balahtsis-Thomas learned that her son was being instructed to attend school remotely she said, “no.”

“As soon as that email came out I emailed the teachers and said, ‘he’s not doing the remote learning. He’s having a snow day.’ During COVID we didn’t have a choice [but] I swore they would never do remote learning again.” 

Her son, a fifth grader at PS 006, instead played in the snow in Central Park before returning home for a regularly scheduled math tutoring session. 

“To me it’s form over substance. [The Department of Education] just wants to say that they’re doing this to check something off their agenda,” she said. “But what are the kids learning remotely when it’s snowing out and they want to be out in Central Park playing?” 

Another mother, Veronica Gill Mannarino, told the NY Post that her children spent the day playing in the snow, drinking hot cocoa, eating pizza and playing video games.

“Some of my best memories as a child were waking up to a snow day, no school — I would never want to take that away from them just because they can [learn remotely].”