Chesapeake Public Schools’ computer network affected by malware from phishing emails

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - An attack on computers at Grassfield High School has students and parents concerned. Chesapeake Public Schools says a malware attack is responsible for taking the school off the grid.

The school district said a virus entered their network through phishing emails sent to employees. Only a couple of divisions have been affected and it's not a system-wide outage. However, it impacted Grassfield High School in a big way. Classes heavily relying on technology were affected, but the others carried on as usual.

"Economics is all computer-based learning. We weren't able to do that, but we were able to play board games the entire class. That was pretty fun, but we didn't learn at all, which was a problem," said Rhys Lamb, an 11th grader.

Another student, Meadow Gallant, said she relies on computers for a few classes. "We used them for math for notes, and I use them most days in my 4th block for marketing to do research," she said.

Some students and parents told News 3 students are getting behind because one of the periods where they do schoolwork, one lunch, was canceled since computers weren't working. They also said teachers couldn't update grades and if students' cell phones were connected to the school WiFi, which is highly encouraged, they could be subject to the virus.

"Of course, my kids are going to be using up all the data on their phones because they're at school without WiFi," said Jo Anne Gallant.

A spokeswoman with the school district admitted not having technology can be hard for 21st century students, but teachers and staff are being creative. The IT department has contained the virus and is hoping to get everything back to normal soon. The malware was found on single computers at several other schools, but no other schools were impacted the way Grassfield High School was.

Some students say they are concerned about the projects they are working on.

"In my AP seminar class, we've been doing presentations over the past few days, and we aren't able to present anymore on the Smart Board," said Lamb. Smart Board is a way to project things from a computer onto a board in the classroom.

Lamb said she's hoping everything is back to normal Friday because that's when she presents her project she's been working on for a few weeks.

On Friday the school send this letter to parents addressing the issue:

"As you may be aware, Chesapeake Public Schools was impacted by malware through an outside attack earlier this week. The virus entered our network through phishing emails sent to employees and interrupted service to a few specific areas of the division, and our school building was included. This specific type of malware targeted Windows-based devices only.

Several parents have asked what impact this attack had on our instructional day. As you can imagine, losing the use of technology in the classroom can be challenging for the 21st century learner. However, our teachers and staff are flexible and creative in providing activities that allow students to collaborate and connect. In this case, we were able to move our celebration of DECA Day, a national event that provides opportunities for students to practice team building, participate in community service activities, and explore real-life applications of entrepreneurial learning. We moved this event, originally scheduled for Thursday, November 8, 2018, to Wednesday, November 7, 2018, allowing the Information Technology (IT) department ample time to address the malware issue.

It is important to note that DECA day incorporated stations that included the use of board games, such as Monopoly™ and Life™. These activities allowed students to incorporate the 5Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, and Citizenship) included in the Virginia Department of Education’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate. Check out our social media pages for pictures of this event.

We appreciate the flexibility and patience of our staff and students, and the efforts of the IT department who worked tirelessly to contain and eradicate the virus. In addition, we are proud of the creativity, patience, and collaboration our staff has exhibited. They modified lessons in order to continue to provide quality instruction and remain on track with our pacing guides.

At Grassfield High School, we are committed to the digital safety of our students, faculty, and staff and we will continue to provide high quality instruction despite any technological barriers."

Stay with News 3 for updates.