Big Rapids school board purchases new E911 compliant phone system

IMPROVED COMMUNICATIONS: Big Rapids Public School district Superintendent Tim Haist discusses how a new phone system will allow emergency response workers to quickly and accurately identify which classroom a 911 call is coming from. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

IMPROVED COMMUNICATIONS: Big Rapids Public School district Superintendent Tim Haist discusses how a new phone system will allow emergency response workers to quickly and accurately identify which classroom a 911 call is coming from. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — Emergency services soon will have an easier time responding to calls from classrooms in the Big Rapids Public School district.

Big Rapids Public School Board of Education trustees unanimously voted Monday in favor of purchasing a new Shoretel phone system from Moss Telecommunications in Grand Rapids for approximately $82,000. The upgrade is part of a mandate set in a 2011 amendment to the Michigan Emergency 911 Services Enabling Act requiring multiline telephone systems to be capable of identifying the specific location of emergency calls by the end of 2016.

The new E-911 compliant system will make it much easier for emergency responders to provide their services when it’s most important, according to BRPS Superintendent Tim Haist.

“If you dial 911 on any phone in our district, they will be able to locate specifically what classroom it is coming from,” he said. “It’s a high cost, but this is why we have built up our fund balance – to be able to make purchases like this.

“The important part of having this new phone system is knowing that, no matter where an emergency takes place, our emergency responders will be able to respond to the appropriate location. It gives peace of mind to our parents and our community members to know we are providing the safest possible environment for our students.”

Joe Bouman, district technology director, said the new system is a definite upgrade from the current one, which was installed between 1998 and 2000. The new system is expected to be installed beginning in July.

“We did our homework. We did site visits. We evaluated a variety of different products and spent a lot of time in meetings investigating all aspects of the products,” he said. “The bids had quite a range, but of the two that we were most interested in, the Moss bid was about $25,000 less.”

The new system offers more advantages than just determining where a call is coming from.

“If the person who calls 911 gets disconnected, the operator needs to be able to call that phone back. This system gives us the capability to do that,” Bouman said. “Every room is essentially going to have a telephone number associated with it so the 911 operator can get back in touch with them.”

Because the Shoretel system is linked with the schools’ data network, it offers even more communication advantages, Bouman said.

“The new system is going to help us improve our emergency notification. If somebody at the middle school pulls a fire alarm, we can, through the phone system, broadcast a paging message to the classrooms,” he said.  “We can even provide a pop up on the computers to the teachers to provide them with instructions of what to do in a specific emergency.”

The most important part of the new system is the ability to provide emergency services faster, Peter Kent, board president, stressed.

“Safety is the most important thing in the district. You can’t get into our buildings without being checked, cleared and buzzed in,” he said. “Security is so important to all of our administrators. It’s our utmost concern, because we’ve been entrusted with your kids.”

In other business,

n Trustees discussed the potential dates for the annual budget hearing. No votes were cast, but Haist set the meeting at 5:30 p.m. on June 29, at the Big Rapids High School media center.

“We’re obligated to have our budget approved before July 1,” he said. “This gives us a little extra time to find out where the state is coming in and other information to tie up loose ends at the end of the year.”

n Haist praised the staff at Brookside Elementary School for the success of the school’s first Leadership Day.

“It went really well,” he said. “You can tell the students understand the seven habits and the whole concept behind the Leader in Me program.”

Trustee Michelle Rasmussen also commented on Brookside’s implementation of the Leader in Me program.

“The Leadership Day was fantastic,” she said. “Kudos to everyone on staff at Brookside, those kids were so excited. The staff made it fun for the kids and the students really knew their stuff. I was really impressed – it’s such a good foundation for them to learn those leadership skills at such a young age.”

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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