For decades, the Houston County School District has attracted parents from around the country, thanks to its outstanding academic achievements. The District’s K-12 schools earn national awards for educational excellence, and its students routinely outperform state and national averages on standardized tests. These are just some of the reasons the State of Georgia designates the Houston County Board of Education an “Exemplary Board” year after year.
But in March 2020, Houston County had to grapple with the same unusual challenge facing school districts all over the world: How to continue educating students remotely, without sacrificing academic rigor or placing undue burdens on the students’ families.
The District’s technology team went to work quickly to roll out digital solutions for its distance learners and teachers. But they realized that one area of the Houston County School District’s existing tech stack—its phone system—would need a complete overhaul to support thousands of remote students.
Spinning up a district-wide call center overnight
As soon as remote instruction went into effect for the Houston County families who chose to keep their children home due to COVID-19, the District began receiving enormous amounts of panicked tech-support calls.
“We quickly realized most calls from parents and teachers fell into a few standard categories,” recalls Brian Trent, Director of Technology for the Houston County Board of Education. “Some were questions about our online learning platforms, others were about trouble students were having with their laptops, and still others had to do with login or account problems.”
Fortunately, Brian had signed up for RingCentral’s cloud-based communications solution, which would allow teachers and staff to make and take calls using their school numbers anywhere, using any device: laptop, desk phone, or their cell phones. When he realized the District needed a tech-support call center, Brian was able to set one up through RingCentral in under an hour.
“It was just amazing,” he says. “I created call groups for each of these categories of calls, and then I assigned our support techs to receive these calls in various shifts. And I was able to do all of this from my computer at home in about a half-hour.”
Cloud communications delivers so many other benefits
As pleased as Brian’s team was to be able to support parents and teachers with their new call center, they also discovered many additional reasons to be thankful for rolling out RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere solution when they did.
“One thing I hadn’t even thought of prior to the rollout was that we could use the RingCentral desktop or mobile app not just for calls but also for texts,” Brian explains. “That meant a teacher or administrator who couldn’t take a parent’s call could still respond via SMS text—and always from their school number, meaning they would never have to give out their personal cell.”
Another benefit the District discovered: Even a quarantined employee didn’t have to be cut off from the community. Jennifer Hobbs, for the Board of Education, puts it this way: “If a staff member were exposed to someone who tested positive, they’d have to self-isolate. But because RingCentral lets us communicate from anywhere, even a quarantined employee could still be productive, could still serve our community. That’s been very helpful for morale.”