Dial Sequim for new school phones

by MATTHEW NASH Sequim Gazette

Sequim School District is looking to upgrade its phone service.

This past summer the schools’ phone lines malfunctioned, with no calls coming in or out for a few days.

“It brought to light the unreliable nature of the phone system,” said Brian Lewis, the district’s business manager.

Karen Sande, the district’s personnel specialist, said their phone vendor, Baron Communication from Bellingham, brought the phones back to working order.

After that, school officials decided there needed to be a change.

Lewis met with a consultant to determine the best solution at the best price.

“We’re trying to balance cost with longevity,” he said.

The cost of a phone system upgrade is estimated at $70,000.

The current system was installed in 1994 but, because of new infrastructure, the schools run off three systems, one at the bus barn on Third Avenue, one at Greywolf Elementary and one a link between the other schools.

What’s $70K going to buy?

Lewis said the schools will not be replacing the phones in each classroom just their “brains,” comparable to a computer network.

The schools’ system is so outdated that to replace faulty network cards, officials must buy parts online because no local telecommunications companies supply their system anymore.

“That’s saying a lot about the equipment we are using,” he said.

By tying the three networks into one, the district will save money.

Currently, the school district pays extra for a state mandated 9-1-1 service that allows individual tracking to each room.
Lewis said a new, unified system would have this capability already, saving the district money.
It will expand the schools’ caller ID, too.
“Right now when we make a phone call out, people don’t know where it’s coming from but this identifies who the call is coming from, specifically a teacher,” Lewis said.

Lewis is trying to organize a subsidy through the Schools and Libraries Access Commission to pay a portion of the $70,000.

He said he’s not sure the amount they’d cover but he will make sure the new system is covered by an e-rate subsidy before going through with the purchase. He wants to be certain the deal won’t void any other e-rates as well. 

The e-rate subsidy is available through June 30, 2010, but school officials do not want the phone lines to be down while school is in session.

Lewis said their two options are as soon as Christmas break or at the beginning of summer vacation.

“It all depends on negotiations with the Schools and Libraries Access Commission for this e-rate to go through,” he said.

Reach Matthew Nash at

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