Infinite Campus mail server crashes ahead of first online class day

Alex Rozar, Opinions Editor

On March 25, the Infinite Campus Messenger was overwhelmed with messages across the Rockwood School District (RSD), causing it to crash right before the start of online learning.

Update March 30: The issues with Infinite Campus Messenger have now been resolved, RSD Chief Information Officer Deborah Ketring said in a released statement. “When using Infinite Campus Messenger, please set the Default Delivery Device to include both the inbox and email,” Ketring said. “In the event the email is not received by the parents and/or student, they can retrieve the message without attachments from their Infinite Campus Message Center.”

Infinite Campus Messenger was overwhelmed with messages across the Rockwood School District (RSD) on March 25, the day before digital teaching began as schools closed due to the coronavirus.

The program, used by teachers to contact parents and students, received an influx of messages as teachers sought to inform parents of their plans and crashed, Coordinator of Information Systems Sudha Natesan said.

“We have a limit on the number of email messages that can be sent per day,” Natesan said. “Due to the high volume of email messages sent by the Infinite Campus Messenger system, the server could not process the messages and many were lost—the reason being our respectful teachers trying to help our students during this challenging time.”

RSD system teams reviewed the error and determined it was caused by an overload in the system’s Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server, Chief Information Officer Deborah Ketring said.

“We are currently investigating other options for handling the SMTP component,” Ketring said.

Ketring said she was contacted by several parents and students who had not received messages. She estimated the scale of the issue to be very large.

“I believe all families were impacted by at least one missing message,” Ketring said.

As a result, many students did not receive messages containing important information related to the Alternative Learning Plan (ALP).

History teacher Steve Klawiter, who tried to send letters to parents on March 25 explaining when he would be available to help students, realized his letters had not gone through after he received messages from some of his students. Klawiter also said similar technical issues happened to his wife, who works in the Parkway School District. 

“After some students reached out and said they had not received anything, we posted the parent letters on Google Classroom and had the students deliver them for us,” Klawiter said. “Infinite Campus, I suspect, will be reworking their Messenger system to try to make it as robust as their gradebook.”

Ketring said other facilities used by the district experienced similar problems around the same time.

“Google’s GSuite for Education platform experienced a major worldwide outage on March 26 that impacted districts across this country and other countries,” Ketring said. “Other systems used by K-12 school districts have also experienced a variety of issues; for example, the bit.do URL shortener site was unavailable March 24-26.”

Natesan said the Messenger system failure was detected quickly “thanks to our fantastic network team.”

“Our Network Supervisor was alerted immediately regarding this issue through our internal altering systems we have in place,” Natesan said.

A press release put out by Ketring said RSD is “working with Infinite Campus and a vendor to get Messenger working as soon as possible.” Ketring said she initially expected the issue to be resolved by the morning of March 27. Natesan said she does not know how long a fix will take.

“At this time, we are not certain how long it will take Infinite Campus technical support to do their part, as we don’t know what is involved,” Natesan said. “They are aware of the severity of the issue and it is categorized as a high priority.”

Until then, Natesan said teachers can still continue to send mail through Infinite Campus Messenger by selecting both “Inbox” and “Send via email,” but said the message would not be able to send with any attachments. Ketring said teachers can also send emails directly from their district Gmail accounts, but said those accounts “have a send limit of 3,000 unique addresses per day.”