$30,000 system allows schoolwide communication

In today’s high tech schools, where students and teachers alike have cellphones and wireless devices nearly always within reach, the good old-fashioned intercom system can seem as quaint and antiquated as a mimeograph machine.

So the news that the West Linn-Wilsonville School District recently installed an intercom at Athey Creek Middle School might seem surprising.

by: FILE PHOTO - The new intercom system at Athey Creek Middle School allows office staff to communicate with students in common areas and outside.The decision arose after a districtwide safety review following the December 2012 school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“The district is taking a serious look at all safety-related responsibilities of the district and then how to be responsive in a positive way,” Director of Operations Tim Woodley said. “Our schools are very safe right now, but with the heightened awareness ... it does point out some deficiencies.”

Installing the intercom system at Athey Creek cost the district about $30,000, according to Director of Information Services Curtis Nelson. Funding came from the technology portion of the 2008 capital bond.

The district’s high schools and two other middle schools, Rosemont Ridge and Inza R. Wood, each have standalone intercom systems, leaving Arts and Technology High School as the only secondary school now relying on a telephone-based system for schoolwide communication.

Most of the district’s primary schools also use telephone-based intercom systems.

The problem at Athey Creek, according to Principal Joel Sebastian, was that the phone system did not project sound to common areas such as the library, gymnasium, lunchroom and outside.

“How do we ensure everyone’s safe?” Sebastian asked. “Communication plays a big part in that.”

Following the Sandy Hook shootings, schools began performing lock-in and lock-out drills, so faculty and students would be prepared in case of an emergency that required them to keep students inside or to evacuate the building in an emergency situation.

“As we’ve done lock-in and lock-out drills and looked at those practices, it’s just pointed out things that we need to be attentive to,” Woodley said. “At Athey, we could communicate to classrooms but you couldn’t hear it out in the hallways. (Installing the intercom system) was the right thing to do at that school. We’re assessing the district safety plan and moving ahead to list out safety-related projects ... across the district.”

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