WILLIAMSTOWN, N.J. - A bizarre situation in South Jersey, as an internet outage may have caused one Gloucester County school district to shut down all eight of its schools for several days.
The school parking lots are empty and students have been out of the classroom since Monday and a visit to the Monroe Township Public Schools building to see the superintendent is dashed as a sign outside says the building is permanently closed.
"They didn’t tell us anything. The only thing they told us was the internet was out and the copiers weren’t working on the first day that we came back from Thanksgiving break," student Darien Ozbas said. "I miss my friends a lot and this just confused us and we don’t know how to respond."
Ozbas is in third grade at White Hall Elementary. His mom says parents received a flurry of emails and text messages Monday night to make them aware of the emergency closing Tuesday.
"It doesn’t make sense that it’s only the internet down. It makes us think that there’s a cyber-attack and you’re not telling us anything," parent Shianne Ozbas explained.
Each night, parents have received last minute notices saying school continues to be closed.
"They’re calling out of work. They are not able to work from home," Shianne said. "At first, we were thinking like, ‘Oh why can’t they just teach them the old-fashioned way?’ Pull out the books right on the whiteboards? Why does it need to have the internet?"
So far, the district is only saying administrators were made aware of a technical issue, which disconnected the school’s internet service and an unauthorized third party was involved.
"That’s terrifying. All of their personal information, where they live," Ozbas remarked. "We want answers. We want to know really what’s going on. Is it just the internet being down? Like, what’s the true cause and purpose of why the school has to be closed and shutdown for three days. They just came back from Thanksgiving break."
And, the lack of transparency is building distrust within the school community.
"I feel like they’re actually kind of lying and they just want to cover up something and they don’t want people to panic," Darien said.
In a turnabout late Thursday afternoon, it was announced schools would reopen Friday. In an email sent to parents, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ficke states:
I am pleased to report that MTPS has been able to restore Internet access and operations so that classes may resume tomorrow.
We wish to reiterate that we sincerely regret any inconvenience that the emergency closure has caused to you and your family, and we thank you for your patience and understanding during this time. We look forward to welcoming all students and staff back tomorrow morning.
As our investigation continues and when we learn more about this incident, we will provide a further statement to the MTPS community.