Washington schools afflicted by Skyward outage

By Nolan DeGarlais, News Editor

The Skyward service went down after a technology glitch on the afternoon of Friday, April 20, cutting off all parent, teacher and student access to the service for nearly a week. Skyward is used by 274 out of the 294 school districts in Washington state to manage everything from student grades to information on school district employees. Although the Skyward website was brought back online on Wednesday, April 25, users could not log back into the service until it was fully restored on Thursday, April 26.

In a statement, Skyward officials, based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, said the problem was not related to the Skyward service itself. The outage was attributed to a system failure when the Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (WSIPC), which manages Skyward and various other information services for the majority of Washington state school districts, attempted to conduct a firmware upgrade of their data center on the afternoon of Friday, April 20. The attempted firmware upgrade apparently resulted in a technology glitch causing incompatibility issues with the WSIPC server farm, thus causing the outage of WSIPC-managed services such as Skyward throughout the state.

“Unfortunately, this created the major interruption to [WSIPC] customers by preventing access to Skyward along with other applications,” Skyward Chief Marketing Officer Raymond Ackerlund said in a statement to the press.

The Chief Executive Officer of WSIPC, Marty Daybell, announced after the outage occurred that Skyward and other WSIPC services would be restored by Wednesday, April 25. Although the web service was restored on the scheduled day, it was in a testing mode and users were prohibited from logging back into the service until it was fully restored on the following day, leaving the Skyward outage at a total of six days. The delay in bringing the services back online was due to  shipping and installation times for new equipment, which had to be installed at the WSIPC data center.

According to Daybell, this was the first complete statewide service outage WSIPC has experienced in 19 years. All WSIPC-managed services were affected, including IEP Online, which is used by a majority of Washington state school districts to compile information on Individualized Educational Programs for students receiving any form of special education services.

Without real-time access to Skyward, students and parents in the affected Washington state school districts were unable to view attendance records, school meal information, class grades and assignments, behavioral issues and communications from teachers until the service was fully restored on Thursday. School districts could still view information on class lists and parent contact, but no student or staff information could be updated.

With the Skyward service offline, there were concerns that teachers and other school district employees would not be able to receive their payment on the next Edmonds School District payday, scheduled for Monday, April 30. Due to the fact that Skyward manages nearly all aspects of school district staff management, including payroll, many worried that payment could be delayed if the system’s outage continued. However, Daybell ensured school districts that there were backup plans in place to ensure  teachers and district employees would receive payment regardless of if Skyward could be returned to an operational state before scheduled district paydays.

Skyward’s outage also presented other problems for teachers, including the loss of online attendance taking and grade posting. During the outage, teachers were required to use alternative methods of submitting class attendance figures, including alternative online spreadsheets and traditional paper-based submissions to the attendance office.