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Baltimore County Schools Plan To Resume Virtual Learning Wednesday Following Cyberattack

TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) -- Students in Baltimore County will resume virtual learning Wednesday following a cyberattack, the Baltimore County Public Schools system said Monday.

In an update on the school system's website, officials said students will follow what would have been their Monday schedule when they resume on Wednesday.

Before classes resume, students with HP or Windows-based devices should run through a checklist to see if their devices are compromised. Click here to learn more about that process.


In total, students will miss at least three school days because of the attack, which caused classed to be canceled since last Wednesday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

School Board Chair Kathleen Causey previously told WJZ there could be some form of cloud-based learning for some students by Wednesday, but that was not a guarantee.

The district's IT experts are actively trying to circumvent an aggressive ransomware cyberattack that took over its system.

In a brief statement online, the superintendent of schools called the attack a "crisis."

There are urgent warnings not to use any district-issued Windows-based devices. Chromebooks were not affected.

Spencer Pollock, a cybersecurity attorney with Niles Barton and Wilmer Law Firm, is not associated with this case, but he said a return to normal could take weeks.

"We are facing these hackers who are insidious and sophisticated," Pollock said. "Timing-wise, it takes a very long time if you don't pay the ransom to get your systems back up and running. It's hard for me to give you an estimate, it could range between 10 days to months."

Who the hackers are or how much money they want is still unclear. County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he understands parents' frustrations.

"They have my assurance to do everything I can to push the school that as soon as they are able to, as quickly, as much detail and specificity as possible," he said.

The teachers' union told WJZ there are still a lot of questions about returning to the virtual classroom, including if lesson plans were affected.

"They don't know if their curriculum is available, they don't know if their materials are available, they don't know what they're going to find when they start to plan their lessons," Cindy Sexton, the president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said.

On Monday, some staff members headed to schools with their devices in tow for security checks to find out if they needed to be swapped out.

The tight-lipped, ongoing investigation involving local law enforcement and federal authorities is also causing concern for teachers.

"They have not been assured yet that personal information hasn't been compromised," Sexton said.

With about 115,000 students, Baltimore County has the third-largest school district in the state. In the year of virtual learning, this is yet another issue for families.

"It's hard to brace for what's coming down the pike next," said Amy Adam, who has three children in the district.

"In addition to trying to manage the whole virtual learning, now they have to see how they can strengthen their infrastructure so this doesn't happen again," parent Justine Stallworth said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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