Casey Fisher, technology director at Gasconade County R-2 School District, expects the completion of a telecommunications system overhaul, with a new 646 (Bland) area code prefix, to be active …
Casey Fisher, technology director at Gasconade County R-2 School District, expects the completion of a telecommunications system overhaul, with a new 646 (Bland) area code prefix, to be active “any day now.”
“I am just giving people a few days to adapt to the change,” Fisher said on Friday. “But all I have to do is call Fidelity to get those (437 lines) turned off. The first part of next week they will probably go away for good.”
Fisher said that the former 437 telephone numbers will probably be gone by the time The Gasconade County Republican is printed on Wednesday. This is the district’s second phone system project in the last six years. The first project included a system equipment upgrade through Fidelity. However, the provider was purchased by another company that is moving away from commercial phone lines.
“Basically what happened, when Fidelity got bought out by the current owners, their focus is now just on internet, not phone management,” Fisher said. “They will still provide analog phone lines for people. They ran them for our building. The previous system was put in and installed by Fidelity and they helped us maintain it and helped with any issues that arose.”
Fisher said about a year and a half ago they started noticing major interference in the phone lines and couldn’t figure out the issue.
“Was it one phone line or one number or was it happening sporadically?” Fisher wondered. “They checked the outside lines, and that is about the time we found out they weren’t going to provide services for internal systems anymore.”
Fisher said the company provided the district with a list of service providers, including STL Communications located in St. Louis.
“They came out and tried to help us diagnose the issue, but we never did figure it out,” Fisher said.
The previous equipment upgrade only included a few new phones and extra servers on the back-end of the system. The remainder of the system — hardware and software was outdated — would have cost the district a lot more to get everything up to par and there was a chance it wouldn’t resolve the static issue in the phone lines.
The district decided it was time to go for a complete overhaul and went out for bids in the spring of 2022. In August 2022 Gasconade County R-2 officials approved a bid that included a five-year contract for $141,744.38 with STL Communications, Inc.
According to the bid, the initial project was $74,525 to replace the system and equipment. Service support includes $9,942 a year. IPOS (Internet Phone Operating System) is $581.87 a year; SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) phone service is $3,080 the first year and $2,880 a year for the remaining four years of the contract. The total cost is $88,128.90 for services and equipment the first year, and $13.403.87 the remaining four years of the contract.
“They started work almost immediately,” Fisher said. “There was a lot of back-end server work before we could start putting phones in. We were mostly done around the last of September, first of October when we started putting phones in.”
It took Fisher, his assistant and two employees from STL Communications two days to install new phones district-wide. The new system is internet-based.
However, the switch still had some snags.
“The phone number ordeal — those analog numbers no longer work,” Fisher said, referring to the 437 prefix phone numbers the district has had for years. “Originally Fidelity was going to help us port those numbers over from the old system so when you dialed the numbers, it switched over to the new system on the back-end and no one would know on the front-end. But then we were ready and they said they didn’t have the equipment to swap everything over.”
Fisher said Fidelity still controls the phone lines, but no longer offers services to commercial users.
“STL Communications threw some phone numbers at us and I didn’t realize 646 area code was a Bland extension,” Casey said. “They threw some Hermann phone numbers at us and I said I didn’t really care. So 646 it is.”
Some community members have complained that the new phone numbers will be long-distance for anyone who has a landline and not a cell phone. Fisher said he looked into that complaint in the Gerald area, but all students had at least one cell phone number registered in their household contacts.
“So, STL Communications,” Fisher said as the answer to the situation. “I have their guys on speed dial. Their customer service is great. The speakers, the bell systems, all of that stuff goes through the phones.”
Fisher said the new phone system is working and comes across loud and clear.
New R-2 phone numbers are:
Owensville High School: 573-646-4005 Fax: 573-646-4860
• Owensville Middle School: 573-646-4038 Fax: 573-646-4861
• Owensville Elementary School: 573-646-4862 Fax: 573-646-4862
• Gerald Elementary School: 573-646-4041 Fax: 573-646-4863
• Administration: 573-646-1015
• Transportation: 573-646-4043
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