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New York City has banned schools from using video conferencing platform Zoom for remote learning. The NYC Department of Education now urges instructors to switch to more secure systems like Microsoft Teams or Google for Education “as soon as possible,” according to a memo obtained by Chalkbeat.

The nation’s largest public school system moved online March 23 as the DoE encouraged students and teachers to remain connected while staying home during the COVID-19 crisis. “Our heroic educators … rose to this challenge with grace, and our whole city is grateful for how they’ve learned to teach and lead remotely,” Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza tweeted on Sunday.

“Many are already using [Google for Education] and we can now confirm their Meet tool is a safe, secure virtual meeting service for schools,” Carranza continued, promising to share guidance about tools like Classroom, Drive, and Meet “soon.”

Zoom (which recently earned a PCMag Editors’ Choice stamp of approval) gained real traction thanks to coronavirus lockdowns. The popular platform, however, has also become a target for hackers and pranksters: Last summer, folks were found spying on users via Mac webcams; now hijackers are “Zoom-bombing” video sessions, disrupting meetings and online classes.

“It’s been a huge lift to get this all going,” a Brooklyn-based principal told Chalkbeat, explaining that this ban will cause headaches for educators and pupils across the city. “It’s taking all the work we’ve done and flushing it down the toilet,” they continued. “And you’re going to lose some kids along the way.”

Another Brooklyn principal echoed those concerns, adding that “the impact will be no more live teaching for many teachers.” “I am not sure that the DoE and the mayor fully understand the impact of decisions like this.”

The NYC Department of Education has already created Microsoft accounts for all students, and is currently training schools on Teams. “We will support staff and students in transitioning to different platforms … that have the same capabilities with appropriate security measures in place,” agency spokesperson Danielle Filson said.

“Our goal is to get more classrooms video conferencing on a safe and secure platform,” Carranza tweeted. “We know the transition away from Zoom will take time for many educators and we will support them. We know maintaining continuity of teaching means it won’t happen overnight.”

There is no word on how much this shift will cost the department, which said it is reviewing and monitoring developments with Zoom, “which may be approved for use at a later date,” according to the memo.

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