Setting Up VoIP for Schools: Site Survey and Equipment (Part 1)

By David Dutton

In this special Get Schooled blog series, we take a look at how one school successfully deployed a VoIP phone system as part of a move to a new building.

Part 1:

Moving into a new school can be a daunting task. Moving into a 65-year-old school building with a complex legacy IT infrastructure can be overwhelming. Needing a permanent facility, Providence Classical School purchased a depression era school building built in 1938. With approximately 200 kids and 25 faculty, the private K-12 Christian school had only 6 weeks to prepare the building for the start of the new school year. Providence Classical School was able to successfully handle their new VoIP installation – thanks to a team of parent volunteers and thanks to the decision to go with a flexible phone system. Here’s how the school ensured they started the new school year with the right communications system.

A phone system project of this magnitude has to start with a solid site survey to provide an overview of the situation. In this case, the site survey unveiled three generations of cabling technology and about 10 subsystems that included a LAN, WAN, analog phone system, alarm, security cameras, intercom, public address system, bell ringer and cable TV. All of these systems were based on technologies from the 1990s and were only partially working. Thankfully, every room in the school included a CAT5 cable drop!

With the site survey in hand, the IT team reviewed the existing infrastructure and identified the core voice and data requirements for this historic building. In addition to the typical requirements of a business office, the school required an intercom and paging system to distribute messages and deliver emergency communications announcements across the campus. Below are the key components identified for this VoIP project:


1) VoIP Phone System with voicemail – With a limited budget, a Switchvox phone system was selected to replace the analog phone system, intercom, paging and voicemail systems. The converged VoIP system should eliminate the need for over 70% of the existing wiring in the school; effectively reducing future maintenance headaches!

2) IP Phones – In the school office, Digium D70 IP phones with rapid dial keys were selected for the administration staff.

3) Paging and Intercom – In every classroom, the speakerphones on the IP phones are loud enough to project voice inside a classroom. In the cafeteria and hallways, IP paging loudspeakers from Valcom have been selected.

4) PoE Switch – Simple Layer 2 POE switches from NetGear are selected to power the IP Phones. In the event of a power outage, an appropriately sized APC UPS will provide temporary back up power to the phones to ensure school wide communication remains available.

5) Voice Services – Based on the volume of inbound and outbound calls, a combination of analog POTs lines and SIP Trunks are going to be most economical. The SIP Trunks provide bursting capability that is only required at peak call times.

What’s next?

With the voice services and equipment on order, the next step is to define the detailed requirements for configuration. In the next blog, we’ll cover the programming and physical installation of Switchvox at this historic school.

Want to see how other schools are putting Unified Communications to the test?

Find out how Boston’s Roxbury Preparatory Charter School replaced their aging NEC phone system.

Related Posts

There Are 4 Comments

Add to the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About the Author

David Dutton

See All of David's Articles