Schools will upgrade an outdated phone system

After 14 years, the Federal Way School District is finally upgrading its phones.

The current system, installed in 1996, has been experiencing more unexplained outages over the past year, both at individual schools and district-wide. The voicemail system has also quit on the district many times.

The district originally planned to upgrade the system in 2013, with funding from the proposed tech levy. However, officials quickly realized that the phones would not make it that long. Already the district has to purchase parts off eBay, as they are no longer available commercially.

The district has come up with a solution.

If approved by the school board next month, the district will purchase Avaya phone systems, after the company CNR Inc. had the lowest proposal bid. About a dozen companies replied to the district's request for proposal sent out late last year. The Tacoma-based CNR was chosen as the best and most affordable company.

The district's tech department also liked that the contract would come with annual maintenance and support for five years.

The company was also recommended by several other neighboring districts, said Eddie Turcotte with the district's ITS department.

The district also plans on adding a backup system at Todd Beamer High School, which has the space for a dedicated server room. This will help the district get back up and running during an emergency.

Since the phone system isn't on the tech levy, the district must come up with another way to pay for the upgrade.

One suggestion, which is dependent on the board's approval next month, is to use leftover funds from the 1999 construction bond.

For that bond, the district received $15.8 million of state match funds, but the district had only anticipated receiving $11 million. The district spent some of the remainder in 1999. However, there is still $2.3 million in state match funds the district could use.

The telephone contract is worth $2 million and the district could use the remaining $300,000 in some additional building upgrades. Those funds, because they are part of the capital fund, can only be used for capital projects, not basic education.

The school board is scheduled to decide on the matter on the Feb. 9 meeting. A public comment period on the issue was held during last Tuesday's meeting. However, there were no objections to the plan.

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