One of California’s largest school districts chose an IP telecom system to boost its schools’ safety, but discovered many other benefits.
Appearing in EdTech K-12
Story by Julie Sturgeon, Photo by Max S Gerber
As principal at Chaparral High School, Lucia Washburn no longer dreads lockdowns.
Each year, the Grossmont Union High School District requires each facility to conduct two such emergency drills. Officials sound a special alarm, and students must get to the nearest room that has a door or that locks. Teachers practice keeping students safe in that secure space, and the El Cajon police officers check every room to make sure the campus is secure. The entire process lasts an average of 10 minutes — but for Washburn, it was 10 minutes of frustration because her building had no public address system. Instead, she communicated with teachers over telephone speakers.
“If the class was a bit loud, they couldn’t hear anything,” she notes.
In the fall of 2005, Jack Blaylock, director of technical services at this San Diego, Calif.-area district, selected Chaparral to investigate a new IP telecom system under consideration. Singlewire (formerly Berbee) billed its InformaCast product as a robust, full-featured system that allows users to simultaneously push an audio stream and/or a text message to multiple Internet Protocol phones and speakers. The Madison, Wis., manufacturer originally built the system for the Department of Commerce after personnel there found themselves banging on doors on 9/11 in an effort to evacuate a building without loudspeakers.
Of course, Blaylock wasn’t willing to invest in new switches, speakers and software for one building; he had a bigger challenge on his hands. The 19 campuses in this high school district handed him a mixed bag of four or five different notification systems. “Some of it, I don’t know if there’s a brand name on it because it goes back 50 years [to] when the school was built,” he says.