Prince George's, Md., Computer Bug Messes Up Many Student Schedules

By Nelson Hernandez and Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 25, 2009; B08

Students at many Prince George's middle and high schools began their year on the sidelines Monday when a problem with the county's new computer system left hundreds of them with gaps in their class schedules.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he did not know how many students were affected by the problem, but he said "most" of the county's 22 high schools had reported problems. At Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, the county's largest school, with an enrollment of more than 2,700 students, more than 600 were without schedules, according to parents and staff members.

The glitch mainly affected students enrolled in "singleton" classes -- generally upper-level or special classes that have smaller enrollments than mandatory core courses. Hite called the situation "unacceptable and inexcusable."

"I don't know if it was a technical issue, with schedules just being dropped, or if they were put in incorrectly," Hite said. "We have every available body that can work on schedules working on schedules. . . . I expect this to be resolved by the end of the week."

At Laurel High School, students with schedule problems were herded into the gym, where they waited for hours.

"Normally, we'd have about 50 students in here, and look at this," said Principal Dwayne Jones, surveying one side of the gym. Hundreds of students filled the bleachers and spilled onto the lacquered floor, talking, fanning themselves and playing cellphone games. One was asleep and was using her book bag as a pillow.

The $4.1 million system, known as SchoolMax, was supposed to make it easier to track students and their academic records and to give parents better access to information about their children's performance. But since its introduction last year, it has been plagued by bugs. Students have reported numerous problems with schedules and grades, and a Facebook group formed to exchange complaints about the system has nearly 3,700 members.

"Last year, they messed up the grades, and this year we have no schedule," said Antoinette Harding, 15, a junior at Laurel. "I'm not really excited to be in this school. I'd rather be in a system more organized."

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