The Warren County School District is taking the first steps toward consolidating its communications systems.
At its Sept. 10 meeting, the school district's board of directors approved moving forward with a web-based approach to phone and intercom systems, and testing will begin this weekend.
The new approach includes a new district-wide "blast" calling system for mass communication and a new phone system, which is tentatively planned to also be utilized district-wide.
The new phone system, originally proposed for the district's Central Office, has extended to provide service at the Learning Enrichment Center and the district warehouse. The system has also been expanded to include Beaty-Warren Middle School as QZAB funds can be applied to the upgrade. Upgrades to the Central Office system are being paid for through capital reserve funds.
The new system will utilize voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology to provide both the services of the traditional district landline system and a handful of expanded services.
According to Brian Collopy, the district's coordinator of technology/information and management, district personnel shouldn't see any noticeable difference in how the phone system is operated. When they pick up the phone and dial a number, it will connect a call. When the phone rings, they pick it up and presumably someone's voice will be on the line.
"It should be pretty transparent to the end user," Collopy said. "The differences are really at the back-end with the system and services. It's a more modern system with a little more redundancy."
In a voice over IP system, phone communications are carried over an IP data network as data "packets" which are reassembled at the receiving end to provide the communication, the same way internet service is carried over a data network.
"It's like comparing apples to bananas as far as functionality," Collopy said of comparing the system to traditional landline service.
In addition to phone service, the new system will replace the current intercom system, provide free conference calling and provide web-based voice mail messaging.
There are cost benefits to the system as well. Although there is an upfront implementation cost of $48,330, which includes a one-year system maintenance agreement through OpenArc, Collopy said the savings in service costs should recoup the initial investment.
Besides the cost savings inherent in the way communications are delivered through a voice over IP system, consolidating services will also provide cost benefits and allow the district to reduce "overall services purchased."
"We're looking at about two years (to start realizing saving)," Collopy said.
Testing of the systems at Beaty began Friday afternoon and extended through Saturday.
"They're our first school," Collopy said.