St. Joseph’s School For The Blind

Eastern DataComm designed and implemented a communication and emergency notification system that enhances safety and physical security for students who have visual impairments and other special needs at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind.

The solution not only enhanced school-wide communication, but also provided a tightly integrated solution that enhanced safety through automated emergency notifications.

About St. Joseph’s School For The Blind

St. Joseph’s School for the Blind provides academic and life skills training along with physical, occupational, and speech therapies to students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. The school is located on a three-acre campus in Jersey City, New Jersey, and includes a 75,000-square-foot ADA-compliant building and a multi-sensory playground with accessible equipment for special-needs children.

St. Joseph’s was founded in 1891. The school has both a rich history and an innovative culture that embraces technology. School administrators contacted Eastern DataComm as a result of their plan to replace their aging phone system. That initial exploratory conversation led to a much larger discussion regarding the importance of emergency notification and the nuances of designing a system that would address the special needs of their school community.

The Value Of A Diagnostic And Consultative Approach To School-Based Communication And Safety Technology Solutions

Eastern DataComm values collaborative partnerships. From the outset of the relationship with the administration at St. Joseph’s, there was a recognition of the school’s unique needs and a desire to provide technology options that were best suited to the school’s safety and communication goals.

The Eastern DataComm team worked with St. Joseph’s School for the Blind to design a solution and develop a project plan that recognized the needs of students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. The team also understood the importance of rapid and efficient transition to the new technology solutions. As such, the plan included a process for seamless cutover to the new systems.

In developing the project plan, Eastern DataComm considered the special needs of the student and faculty population. Additionally, to avoid operational downtime while school was in session, the ShoreTel(Mitel) system and other major components were installed and tested over winter break. As students returned to campus after the holidays, the remainder of the implementation was completed without disruption to the students’  and teachers’ daily routines.

Enhancing School-Wide Communication With An Integrated Technology Solution

St. Joseph’s wanted to improve their school-wide communications while replacing an aging phone system. The previous system was no longer supported by the manufacturer, which created concerns about reliability now that it was at end-of-life. To best address their considerations, Eastern DataComm provided a  ShoreTel(Mitel) Unified Communications system that gave the school advanced communications features and high-definition audio including an intercom system that improved their day-to-day communications and ultimately resulted in cost savings.

The flexibility of the ShoreTel(Mitel) system allowed the school to experience crystal clear sound quality, add phones to areas where they previously had not been installed, and assign staff extensions based on physical location.

Eastern DataComm also assisted St. Joseph’s with replacing its intercom system with a less costly PA system. This was now possible given that the classroom-to-classroom communications that were formerly conducted via the old intercom system were now done using the new phone system. As an added benefit, Eastern DataComm was able to replace the head-end hardware with a smaller, less expensive unit, since the ShoreTel(Mitel) IP phone system has built-in, hands-free intercom capabilities.  Therefore, the new paging head-end only needed the ability to make overhead announcements. The school was also able to reuse all of the existing PA speakers, only adding additional speakers where greater coverage was desired. Through leveraging the existing PA speakers, Eastern DataComm was able to pass on additional savings onto St. Joseph’s.

In addition, Eastern DataComm integrated the phone system with the PA system, allowing an overhead announcement to be generated from any phone within the building, not simply the microphone in the main office.

Lastly, the Eastern DataComm team replaced the head-end of the clock system. Adding the new clock controller replaced the built-in clock system that was a part of the former problematic intercom system.

Overall, the ShoreTel(Mitel) system that Eastern DataComm installed allowed St. Joseph’s to streamline their technology, improving overall communications while reducing costs.


Addressing Emergency Notification And Response With An Integrated Solution Tailored To The School’s Unique Needs

As school-wide physical security has become an increasing concern for schools nationwide, St. Joseph’s began to look for ways to further enhance their own school’s safety and security Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) and the underlying technology that supports it.

Eastern DataComm assisted with these efforts. As part of the consultative process, the team visited St. Joseph’s and demonstrated its innovative Lockdown Emergency Notification System (LENS). Designed specifically to address the challenges that schools face with communications during emergencies, LENS features proprietary technology that integrates the ShoreTel(Mitel) Unified Communications platform with a school’s public address (PA) system, speakers, strobe lights/LED beacons, digital signage, and other alert mechanisms. Most importantly, LENS is an automated solution that enables rapid initiation of emergency notification procedures throughout an entire school campus (inside and outside the confines of building walls).

Because it serves students with visual impairments, St. Joseph’s needed to ensure that emergency notifications were delivered as quickly as possible throughout the campus in ways that could be easily understood by the school’s population. The Eastern DataComm team analyzed the school’s facilities and designed a solution to meet those needs.

The new system offered a streamlined approach to emergency response where, if an emergency were to occur, a teacher or staff member can go to any phone (within the building or classroom) and dial a code that activates the system. First responders, law enforcement, and school administrators are contacted, and emergency notifications are sent out over multiple modes of communication.

The result is an integrated communication and emergency response solution that recognizes the unique needs of St. Joseph’s school and provided the solutions that offered the results they desired.

How St. Joseph’s School Describes Working With Eastern DataComm

David Feinhals, Executive Director of St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, described his experience working with the Eastern DataComm team:

“We then talked to people at a couple of different schools who had used Eastern DataComm for both their phone systems and security measures. They gave glowing reviews, spending quite a bit of time on the phone talking with me about all the ways they’ve benefited. It was easy for me to recommend to our board that we make an investment in this solution for the safety of our staff and students.”

He also shared the value of that the addition of the LENS system brought to his school:

“Audible as well as visual is very important to us. When the LENS system is activated, an announcement is made and strobe lights go off. LED signs are illuminated at the entrances so that people outside or coming into the facility know there’s an emergency. All of this happens in seconds, versus someone having to call the front desk to make an announcement that may or may not be heard.”

In addition, Facilities Director Vincent Romano shared: 

“It’s great to have a system in place that gives clear and ample warning. Eastern DataComm analyzed all parts of the building to make sure that we didn’t have any ‘dead spots’ where students and staff wouldn’t be able to hear the announcements… The Eastern DataComm team came in here almost in stealth-mode. They installed equipment where they could, working around class schedules. And the transition to the ShoreTel(Mitel) system was flawless. In my past experience, bringing new systems on board never goes right the first time. But when we switched over, we were right on. And I can’t say enough about Eastern DataComm’s support. They’re almost at our beck and call. I sometimes feel like we’re their only customer.”

St. Joseph’s School for the Blind learned firsthand that Eastern DataComm’s reputation for quality is well-deserved. From design through implementation, to ongoing support, the Eastern DataComm team provides highly responsive, professional service.

“It really is the total package. They have the right equipment. They have a great team, each with their own area of expertise. They say they’re going to do something in a certain amount of time and they do it within that time. Whenever we have had a problem, even if it isn’t their responsibility, they have helped us. I would highly recommend Eastern DataComm.”

Contact Eastern DataComm To Keep Your School Community Connected And Protected

Eastern DataComm has the expertise to help keep your community connected and protected.

Schedule your Complimentary School Safety Consultation with our Safety & Communications Advisors today by calling 888-902-4091 or emailing us at [email protected].