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After a two-day cancellation of classes due to a cyberattack, the 75,000 students enrolled in the Albuquerque Public Schools will return on Tuesday.
“While we are still dealing with the cyberattack that forced schools to close last week, we have found ways to work around the issues so that students can return to learning,” APS officials said Monday afternoon. “We will be able to take attendance, contact parents in emergencies, and assure that students are picked up from school by authorized adults.”
APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said district Superintendent Scott Elder is expected to speak publicly about the cyberattack on Tuesday.
Armenta said no other information would be released while the cyberattack was still being investigated.
Teachers and administrators on Wednesday discovered that their student information system had been compromised. The system is used to take and track attendance, contact families in emergencies and ensure that only authorized parents or guardians can pick up students.
Classes were subsequently canceled Thursday and Friday. There were no classes scheduled on Monday in honor of the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
The canceled classes will be made up at the end of the school year, like a “snow day,” Armenta said.
Numerous questions are still unanswered: Was the cyberattack a ransomware event in which there was a demand for money? How did hackers get into the computer system? Were any other APS systems compromised? Was there any other personal information about students or parents in the compromised system?
In a video message released Thursday, Elder said that cyber experts and law enforcement from “near and far” were aiding in the investigation.
Cyberattacks, he said, are a growing problem for school districts nationwide, which have seen a five-fold increase since 2016.
Further, he said, virtual learning necessitated by the pandemic has made schools even more vulnerable because “there are more access points for potential intrusion.”
The state Public Education Department has said no other school districts in New Mexico were affected by the cyberattack.
APS is the largest district in the state, but not the only one to have been the target of cyberattacks. In the last five years, hackers have broken into the computer systems of the Taos Municipal Schools, Gadsden Independent School District and the Las Cruces Public Schools. New Mexico Highlands University has been a victim as have the small town of Truth or Consequences, the city of Farmington, San Miguel County and Bernalillo County.