Students were shocked and disappointed to find out they’re no longer able to access MCPS Wi-Fi at school because of a password change last week.
MCPS IT staff changed the ID and password of their wireless network because too many students and staff were accessing the network.
Having such a large number of students and staff on the same network is unsafe because if a virus infects one device, it could spread to other devices on the same network, including school computers, IT specialist Greg Thomas said.
“It’s like leaving the front doors of the school unlocked,” he said. “Someone could come up in front of the school at midnight and park in front of the school and use it.”
Whitman servers are only designed to support 500 devices and with 700 school computers already connected, the added 1300 students who had access were too much for the network to handle, Thomas said.
During a normal day, the network can be fixed if it stops working. But with AP tests, having working Wi-Fi is extremely important since several AP language exams are on the computer, Thomas said.
“If the network stopped or slowed down, the whole test might fail,” he said.
Students have run into problems resulting from a lack of access to Wi-Fi on their personal devices. After-school clubs such as the debate team rely heavily on the Wi-Fi when using laptops at practice.
“Having Wi-Fi this year let us do more things at practice, like skype coaches and be more productive doing research,” junior Sophia Caldera said. “Then it was just gone one day.”
The leadership class also used the Wi-Fi this year to plan events like Homecoming and LLS month. The leadership classroom only has one computer, so students often use their phones to design T-shirts or order decorations, sophomore class officer Carolyn Hoover said.
Though students have been accessing the MCPS Wi-Fi network all year, Whitman has plans to install their own wireless network. The installation has taken longer than expected because staff needed to move access points to cover more area in the school, Thomas said.
“Now that the physical part is mostly done, the next step is to set up the software,” Thomas said.
There are plans to create two different configurations of the wireless software once the Wi-Fi is completed. One network will be for devices that have been approved by MCPS and the other will be for other unapproved devices like cell phones, Thomas said.
Social studies teacher Samantha Fowler said she has seen how the change has impacted students and staff.
“I didn’t even know they changed the password,” Fowler said. “But I definitely know people who were affected.”