A sneaky computer virus brought the entire Belgrade School District computer system to its knees last week, leaving technology professionals no choice but to rebuild the operating system from the ground up, school officials said Monday.
As of Monday, the information technology staff had logged 35 hours of overtime since Thursday, working into the wee hours of the mornings to correct the problem, IT director Jeff West said. The fix still is not in, but should be in the coming days.
The particular virus causing the problem was able to “get in underneath” the system’s safety net and wreak havoc on the district’s 1,300 computers, West said.
“I doubt it spread everywhere, but it could have spread everywhere,” he said.
Superintendent Candy Lubansky said the virus likely showed up after Christmas break. It spread like wildfire once the schools reopened. As a result, technology officials shut down the school’s computer net Friday.
“We think we got a virus that was particular to camouflaging itself well and using our e-mail as a system to spread itself,” she said. “It’s required us to go back to base one with rebuilding our system. It’s been painful.”
Part of the pain is due to the looming end-of-semester activity next Monday, Belgrade High School Principal Kevin McNelis said. Teachers are gearing up to administer semester testing and grades are due that day.
Technology is incorporated into daily teaching tools and many classes require students to turn in semester-end projects by e-mail, McNelis said. Several classes that focus on computer skills — from labs to drafting classes — are shut down.
“We can’t use any computers at all and the risk of that is opening a computer and reinfecting everything,” he said. “The old comment is, ‘It is what it is’, and people have a pretty good attitude about it and we’ll work with it.”
If there is an up side to the situation, Ridge View Elementary Principal Mark Halgren said he has more time to spend among students and staff.
“I don’t have e-mails to respond to and I can’t work on ongoing projects so I get to spend more time in the classroom,” he said. “That’s been great, I haven’t had any technological distractions.”
West said the problem should be fixed in the coming days but would not speculate about a more specific time line.