Malware attack delays start of school year in Ala. county

Malware attack delays start of school in Houston County, Ala.

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY/Gray News) - Houston County Schools announced their second delay to the start of the school year, WTVY reported.

Students will report back on Aug. 12 because of continued problems caused by a malware attack on the system’s server.

The malware attack is affecting both computers and the phone system. This attack also affecting most phones at the district’s central office.

In a press release, the school system announced that they are working with law enforcement and network engineers to fix the issue.

Teachers and staff reported back to school on July 29 as originally scheduled.

Even though seven school days have been lost, one principal is confident that they will get by just fine, technology or no technology.

"We don't know where this came from,” said Ashford High School Principal Bubba Odom. “We have no clue. They don't either. The bottom line is, it's more on them than it is on us. We've just got to take care of the kids."

Odom and the rest of his staff at Ashford High School have been trying to get the school ready for students - without a school phone or any working computers.

HIgh school principal Bubba Odom said he's confident his school can adapt to doing things the old-fashioned way after a malware attack has rendered computers and phone inoperable.
HIgh school principal Bubba Odom said he's confident his school can adapt to doing things the old-fashioned way after a malware attack has rendered computers and phone inoperable. (Source: WTVY/Gray News)

"It's going to be a learning experience,” said Odom. “People are going to learn what it was like 50 years ago, 30 years ago, before cell phones and things of that nature."

Teachers are having to make hard-copy lesson plans, and they can’t print anything, which is making getting organized for the new school year an issue.

Superintendent David Sewell says there are 4,000 computers or so in the system, and just about every one is having to be re-configured, a process that can take more than a half hour.

The state isn’t requiring the school district to add any days to the back end of the calendar.

“We feel like the teachers can stay on task and teach bell to bell, and this time will be made up,” said Houston County Schools Superintendent David Sewell. “We just have to be diligent with our time.”

One of the biggest problems is the lack of access to INow, which the system uses to keep track of student information.

Without it, they won’t be able to finalize schedules, but Odom is confident they can work something out.

"If we have to go back to a magnetic board and we're sticking up people on a magnet board where this teacher goes, where this student goes, some of us are old enough we can go back to that,” said Odom. “It'll work."

The superintendent still couldn’t said if this was a ransomware attack. All he said is the school system has not paid any money.

When asked if any student records were lost from the hack, he said they are "still assessing some of the damage."

He is expecting the network to be back up in about three weeks.

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