Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District offices (File photo)

After weeks of around-the-clock planning for the start of distance learning, teachers and students woke up yesterday to a problem no one had prepared for — a nationwide Zoom outage. While schools and companies across the East Coast and middle America lost hours scrambling for alternative ways to connect, SMMUSD was able to start the school year smoothly as the issue was resolved by 8:30 a.m. PDT. 

Even in the face of the crisis administrators had a plan. While the webpage was down, it was quickly discovered that meetings could be accessed through links on the teacher-provided syllabi and SMMUSD shared this information with families by email, social media, and an alert on the SMMUSD website. 

“We were made aware of the issue about 6:30 a.m.,” said Gail Pinsker, a spokesperson for the District. “I’m not hearing of any challenges related to the start of school due to this issue. We are having a debrief late this afternoon and we will hear from Principals during that time as to any challenges for the first day of school.”

Today was the first day thousands of students across Santa Monica and Malibu began the District’s new model of distance learning with required live instruction and a block schedule. While technological challenges limited the success of distance learning in the spring, most students narrowly escaped the effects of yesterday’s outage and were able to successfully start the school year. 

“My class started at 9:00, so I missed the window of time when it was out. I had no issues attending the class,” said Lilly Chertock, a student at Samohi.

“I had all six of my classes on Zoom until 12:15 when we went to lunch. Then I was back on Zoom at 1 p.m. for a meeting. No issues!” said Barbara Ransom, a math teacher at John Adams Middle School. 

Zoom did not disclose why the webpage was down for several hours or why many users were unable to host or join scheduled meetings. 

At 10:39 a.m. Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom, tweeted “Today @zoom_us had a service disruption that affected many of our customers. We know the responsibility we have to keep your meetings, classrooms & important events running. I’m personally very sorry & we will all do our best to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Zoom’s stock fell by 3% during trading and sent waves of fear across schools, governments and businesses who now rely entirely on Zoom for many of their operations. Before the pandemic Zoom was a new and fairly popular platform, but is now an essential service worldwide.