A subject of much debate in the past – the presence of surveillance in school districts. Well, it’s safe to say that many pundits who were in opposition are starting to reconsider, and rightfully so. School administrators are beginning to mull over the idea of overhauling existing systems in favor of IP communications and monitoring, fortifying both learning and security processes. There are a ton of factors weighing into this decision, with one of the largest being a remedy to the budget crunches that so many districts are currently contending with. For an abundance of schools, using VoIP will provide an instant return in educational value and a long-term return in relieving the strain of a tight budget. For others, it means creating permanent security measures that won’t innerve students by being intrusive or needing to patrol, but will still provide the same caliber of comfort and protection.

The aftershock of the events in Newton have swept through the entire nation, reaching as far as the West Coast. This past Monday morning, San Diego leaders gathered at City Hall to discuss school safety, a proactive response to the shooting in Connecticut that tragically left twenty children and six adults dead. The general consensus found that more measures were needed to make sure the monitoring of schools and ability to make announcements are at optimal shape. Within a month, San Diego police will have the ability to remotely monitor a live IP Camera feed, as per Chief William Lansdowne. San Diego Unified has been setting aside money to make their schools more secure, planning to install complete VoIP systems in the very near future.

Last year, Woodbridge Township School District participated in a litmus test for VoIP, in a $50,000 feasability study on the impact of telecommunications across the district. The support for the initiative was almost unanimous, in a 5-2 vote from the Board of Education in favor of the implementation of VoIP. The results of the study are still pending, with it being scheduled to take place over the course of two years. In correspondence with an allying school, Brick Township, reports of VoIP utilization were documented as freeing up anywhere from $12,000 to $14,000 annually for other means.

Another real world application in full swing with regard to VoIP deployment is at Ridgewood Public Schools, who are saving an astounding 70 percent each month by using ShoreTel. Beyond cost savings, the district has found convenience in consolidating not only billing, but also the efficient unified communication of staff members. In conjunction with Eastern Datacomm, a number of school districts have already noticed incredible improvements to day-to-day affairs. Roughly 40 miles away from Newton, Boxborough township in Massachussetts are outfitting the entire town with a complex VoIP system, from the Town Hall, Fire and Police, in addition to improvements on the existing system that’s been in place for the past three years in its schools. Initiatives like these create regionally connected networks, keeping communities closely knit. Here’s a few of the reasons why:

System ManagementAs opposed to allocating multiple individuals to manage each phone system across the district, uniformity and efficiency can be reached through one person making general changes that impact schools as a whole. This means the simple relegation of a newsletter or memo from an administrator, followed by appropriate, immediate, and effective changes – putting everyone on the same page and ensuring preparedness accentuated by concordance and organization.

Call Forwarding & Presence: Theoretically, a teacher may submit their cell phone number in advance to the system administrator, so that when their desk phone is rang without them present, they can still be reached. This creates a large level of mobility, keeping faculty and staff in touch whether the need is urgent or otherwise. In the case of a fire drill or the like, a fellow educator who might know only a teachers classroom number or have access to a directory, will still be routed to them properly. The enforcement and upkeep of applications such as these creates an incredibly safer environment, a high level of accountability, and a better overall infrastructure.

E911:  One of the most remarkable facets of VoIP, has been the evolution of E911. In the event of an emergency, a fefined system will be able to notify the authorities, right down to the specific location or classroom from which the call is being placed. As discussed, ShoreTel has already found implementation in several districts, which includes a comprehensive emergency call system, delivering a notification to school administrators instantly after a call is placed, including detailed information such as the extension related to the emergency call. Deployments like these put a microscope on the need for help, eliminating the broad report authorities might get from a traditional system. This, among other benefits of an E911 system has the ability to drastically impact response times and save lives.

 Child walking into school

Refraining from discussing cost savings further, the aforementioned items have the potential to make schools safer, thereby connecting administration, the authorities, and others we rely on to protect our children and community. For many districts, the initial costs of installing complete VoIP systems and infrastructures ends up being the reason for downvotes – without the realization ROI far exceeds the initial cost. In strong consideration of the multitude of ways these systems can make schools safer, any decision maker would be hard-pressed to argue against these initiatives. In many respects, society often overlooks that which might not seem privy to purchase at the time. Saving lives by leveraging the safety measures of the future, is an investment that should never require second thought.