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Cedar Rapids Summer School Disrupted by Cybersecurity Breach

The Iowa school district this week suspended summer programming for 750 students, on short notice and with scant details, while school officials worked with third-party cybersecurity experts to review a breach.

Data Breach
(TNS) — More than 750 children have a week off from summer school because of a cybersecurity breach at the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

The district this week suspended its summer programming — including Kids on Course University, one of the largest summer school programs in Iowa, offering learning programs at four sites for students from all 21 Cedar Rapids elementary schools — after a cybersecurity incident was discovered over the weekend.

Tracy Ehlert, third grade teacher for Kids on Course University at Hoover Community School and Democratic state legislator, said "there are probably people in desperate need of alternative arrangements. It's very short notice."

School officials were stationed at school bus stops Tuesday morning to let families know summer programming is canceled this week if they showed up, Ehlert said.

Superintendent Noreen Bush said the cybersecurity attack is a "legal matter" and the district is unable to comment on it. "We will communicate logistics with our community as needed," she said in a text message.

District officials also did not respond to questions from The Gazette about why school programs were canceled and if district officials are working with families to find alternative child care solutions. School officials have not described the nature of the cyber attack nor say which systems were targeted.

Under an announcement of summer programs being suspended on the Cedar Rapids Community School District Facebook page, parents voiced confusion about what programs are affected by the closure. Questions included if the suspension includes Kids on Course University, Champions child care, transportation to child care and the summer lunch program. The questions went unanswered on the district's page.

The cybersecurity attack, however, is not expected to disrupt staff payroll, according to an email Monday to school staff from Deputy Superintendent Nicole Kooiker.

Only staff in the district's payroll department, technology department and accounting department are expected to report to work this week, according to the email obtained by The Gazette. Employees have access to their district email account from off-site locations, Kooiker said.

The YMCA day camp program moved its programming at Taft Middle School, 5200 E Ave. NW, to the YMCA in Marion for the remainder of the week. Tanisha Phelps, director of child care services at the YMCA, said the decision was made by YMCA staff to continue providing working families with child care.

"Our biggest concern is making sure families get what they need and kids have a safe place to be," Phelps said. "We will do whatever it takes to accommodate that for families who still need child care."

The YMCA summer day camp is operating weekdays this summer from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Aug. 12. It was serving 40 children ages 5-12 years old at Taft and 60 children at the Marion YMCA, 3740 Irish Dr. in Marion.

The Cedar Rapids district also suspended transportation services and is unable to transport children in the YMCA day camp program on their weekly field trip, Phelps said.

The district also is unable to prepare meals to be distributed through the city of Cedar Rapids' Rollin' Recmobile, which brings activities to 13 parks in Cedar Rapids during the summer. Snacks will still be available.

The district is working with third-party cybersecurity experts to review the breach and take steps to ensure something similar does not happen again, according to a Monday news release.

High school baseball and softball games scheduled this week are not affected by the cybersecurity breach. District officials expect regularly scheduled summer activities to resume Monday.

©2022 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.