Wireless Telephones Help Schools Increase Communications, Decrease Safety Risks

Increasing communications among students, teachers, staff, administrators and security personnel is the answer to many of the challenges schools face today. But with schools expanding into portable classrooms, improving communications in the schools is more complex than it sounds. One way in which forward-thinking schools are improving their communications is by providing personnel with wireless telephones. To take advantage of their existing telecommunications infrastructure, schools are inexpensively adding wireless voice capabilities to their existing Wi-Fi WLANs.

Although schools initially may have decided to deploy wireless networks to offer students and staff mobile computing labs and Internet access, they are now finding that voice is yet another capability that can be added to their network. The result is that staff can carry lightweight wireless telephones that cover classrooms, parking lots, laboratories, lunchrooms, gyms, auditoriums, athletic fields, locker rooms and a host of other campus areas. Increasing school safety is priceless for administrators, but with wireless telephones, the cost of supplying teachers and staff with handsets is less than other alternatives such as paging devices, walkie-talkies, intercom systems, cellular phones, and wired desktop or wall-mounted telephones.

Schools are finding that voice makes the most sense when it comes to opening communications channels among teachers, parents, school staff and community emergency medical teams. However, as simple and effective as the telephone is, most schools still do not have the funds to wire each classroom with a desktop telephone - a situation that is compounded by portable classrooms that often are 150 feet away from the main school building.

The need for increased communications exceeds having wired telephones in every classroom, because providing communications campuswide is vital in keeping the student body safe. For the very reason that safety concerns run the gamut from violence, theft, drugs, firearm concealment, vandalism and other health urgencies, schools must equip teachers and staff with the fastest, simplest devices to manage and contain such emergencies.

A Cost-Effective Solution

Wireless telephones not only offer schools a multi-pronged solution to various communications issues, they can also provide schools with a higher value on their WLANs. With an existing network in place, adding voice capabilities exponentially expands the return on a school's network investment since a WLAN eliminates the cost of running data cables to individual classrooms or workstations. Schools still incur the cost of running cable to the WLAN access points and the access points themselves, but each access point pays for itself if it eliminates five or more individual cable runs. Also, an access point uses just one port off the Ethernet switch in the computer room, so there's additional savings of about $50-$100 per cabled connection replaced.

Wireless Telephones Reign Supreme

Schools have taken measures to improve communications with various methods, but none have proven to be as effective as wireless telephones. Paging systems disrupt the classroom and have a response time that can jeopardize student safety in an emergency. Student runners have limited access to key personnel, which can cause delays and a host of miscommunication problems.

Walkie-talkies or two-way radios are even noisier and more disruptive than traditional phones. They do not provide privacy for the people communicating and are unable to contact anyone outside of the school. In addition, cellular phones incur airtime charges and often have dead zones within school facilities that disrupt communications. They also lack the internal features of wired desktop telephones such as dialing by extension, call transferring and call conferencing.

While the above-mentioned devices provide increased communications, none of the devices provide as complete of a solution as wireless telephones. Already deployed in various districts throughout the nation, wireless telephones are proving to be a successful, cost-effective technology.

Contact Information
SpectraLink Corp.
(800) 676-5465
www.spectralink.com

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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