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LPS streamlining phone system to save money

LAWTON, Okla._The Lawton Public School district is working to save money on its phone bill each month by installing a new internet-based system.

Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, removes the need for land lines by connecting calls through the internet.

Part of the district's phone bill is paid for by the federal government, but that budget is being cut by 20-percent each year, making it more difficult for the district to foot the bill.

With the old land line based system, the district has over 400 phone numbers, so it is all too easy to dial the wrong number. With VOIP, it will be cut down to about 50 numbers.

"Every school is still going to have their main telephone number, so if you looked in the phone book and you saw where Eisenhower High has a certain number, that main number, we're keeping that main number," said Zeldon Rice, Director of Information Technology.

With the old phone lines, wrong numbers had to be re-dialed the "old-school way where you hang up and try again, but with VOIP Rice said, if you've accidentally called the wrong number, they can transfer you to any other phone in the entire district.

Rice said the voice over protocol system stream lines communication with parents as well. Each teacher will now have a phone in their individual classrooms. But rice says that will not come at the cost of disrupting the learning environment...teachers can leave the phones on silent and...

"You get an email message saying that you've got a voice mail. You can look at it either on your computer, or you can listen to it on the phone."

Vic Menendez of Vic Telecommunications has been hired by the district to install the phones, he says this system is much more dynamic and will evolve with Lawton Public Schools.

"As we go to the future, this Yealink phone, they may not want this, they may want something else, and they can go to it without having to say, 'oh by the way we have to go get new licenses, and we have to go get a new server.' You're ready to operate for years to come," Menendez said.

Another perk is the system’s ability to send exact locations to 911 dispatchers.

Many parents may be concerned about the reliability of an internet connection, but Rice said each school has what's called a, reliability gateway. It functions like a back-up generator for the phone server, so lines of communication will remain open in all situations.

The new system cost the district about $400,000, but will save about $60,000 each year. About half the schools have already been transferred over it. The rest are expected to have it by Thanksgiving.

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