Pinellas' Meadowlawn Middle experimented with no bells, too
Silence is golden for students and staff at Seminole High.
Eliminating the use of bells to signal class changes has worked so far for the Warhawks this year, but they weren't alone in experimenting with bell-free school days.
Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg also did away with bells in August, said principal Claudius Effiom. Like Seminole High principal Tom Brittain, Effiom also mulled over how he could expand tenets of Meadowlawn's personalized learning magnet, a program that gives students "voice and choice" in their learning, to the rest of the school.
"I didn't feel that (using bells) was a good message in terms of... independence, responsibility and choice," Effiom said.
Meadowlawn has seven, 45-minute class periods a day with four minutes in between. Add to that about 10 bells during lunch periods.
"There were just multiple interruptions in that short period of time," Effiom said, describing the tone of the bells themselves as "jarring."
Effiom discussed the idea to his staff, whom he said were skeptical of the idea. He made a compromise: try it for one semester, then conduct a survey of the teachers to eliminate bells for good or go back to the old system.
Four months passed, and Effiom sent out the survey. The vote was split: 36 teachers voted to go back to the old system, while 35 voted to silence the bells. He said students were similarly split on the issue.
Effiom said some teachers complained more students were late to class because the could not properly gauge time. Other teachers said they themselves needed an "external check" to manage their time.
He said he wasn't sure turning off the bells led to more tardies.
"I don't think the bells make a different in whether the students are tardy or not," Effiom said. "I think the more importanat criteria is the expectation of the teacher in the room, and that hasn't changed."
Those who voted in favor of eliminating the bells felt that it "promoted a collegial, calm atmosphere on campus."
The school went back to using bells this semester.
Effiom said eliminating bells works better in a high school environment with a student body that is more mature and calmer, like Seminole High.
"I think it fits well with the culture that the principal is trying to build (and) the majority level of the students," he said. "It also fits in with the personalized learning philosophy. I think everything for them, things align quite well."
Effiom hasn't given up on his quest for a silent transition between classes. He wants to look at the tardy data and see if he could bring the initiative back possibly as soon as this fall.
"I feel very strongly that we need to get away from that industrial model," he said.
He's already managed to change those jarring bells to three short gongs.