To improve communication between staff and parents, Pine Tree ISD is upgrading its telephone system, Technology Director Todd Yohn said Tuesday.

“We’ve had some frustrations with parents and staff when they try to communicate,” he said.

Yohn said he thinks the measures the district is taking will help the issue.

“I think we’ll see a positive response from parents when they have to call,” he said.

The district’s current phone system uses 180 traditional phone lines, he said. At a board meeting Monday, Yohn outlined the status of the improvements trustees OK’d in September, which will cost nearly $160,000 to complete.

The Pine Tree ISD technology department is converting the phones to a “voice over Internet Protocol” system, Yohn said. VoIP is a method of transmitting sound as data over the internet, allowing for inexpensive phone conversations.

Using the system will allow the district to “go all digital” and improve call quality and convenience, Yohn said.

“Right now, the telephone system ... (is) tied into these key systems that provide the phone service to each campus. We’re going to consolidate that into one phone system at Central Office using Cisco’s voice over (Internet Protocol),” he said. “We have our Cisco switches that are in place today that provide internet service to all of the faculty, staff and students. We will piggyback on that existing equipment so instead of having these individual key systems in closets positioned throughout the district.”

While the upfront costs are hefty, he said, the upgrades will pay for themselves because the district will save at least $5,000 per month. The district also is saving labor costs by using its own staff, he said.

The district’s fire and security alarm systems will have VoIP lines, and their existing analog lines will serve as a backup during a power failure. The department has collected an inventory of the district’s phones and is importing the information into the Cisco system, Yohn said.

“What we’re working on this morning is making sure all of the extensions are assigned so we can start the deployment of devices today. ... That deployment would allow internal phone calling, but the service wouldn’t be ready to bring everything online for another couple of weeks. Everything will be fully functional by the end of the year,” he said.

Reporter

Brittany Michelle Williams, a University of Arkansas alumna, serves East Texas as an education reporter at the News-Journal. She won Arkansas Press Association and Arkansas AP Media Editors awards for her work in El Dorado, Arkansas.