No Bells, No Problem

Could you make it to class if they turned off the bells at your high school?

It’s 7:05 a.m. and the school day is about to begin at Seminole High School in Pinellas County. Students are grabbing last-minute items out of their lockers and wrapping up conversations with friends before heading to class.

It’s a scene like any high school anywhere. Except for one major difference.

Seminole High doesn’t use a bell to announce when classes begin or end. Students are on their own to manage their schedules and make sure they get to class on time. The lack of bells creates a college-like atmosphere where students are given more freedom, but also more responsibility.

“I loved the no-bell schedule,” says Molli Dodaro, 18, a 2017 graduate of Seminole High. “I think it will really give me an advantage when I start my classes at the University of Florida this year.”

“Having the bells turned off forced me to memorize the schedule and start watching the clock to make sure I was on time,” says Michaela Reynolds, 18, who also graduated in 2017 and is now a freshman at the University of Central Florida. “I feel like I got an upper hand on adulthood.”

Like in college, students aren’t punished if they are a few seconds — or even a few minutes — late to class.

Before the no-bell schedule was introduced, Seminole High students who were tardy had to get a special pass to enter the classroom after the bell. After waiting in line, getting their pass and traveling back across campus to their classroom, students who were just a few seconds late might end up missing up to 15 minutes of class time.

Now, if you’re repeatedly late to class you’re put on what school officials call “ground notice.” This means you have to be escorted around campus all day by a member of the staff. The teacher or administrator follows you everywhere — even to the bathroom — for two weeks.

“If you’re not going to be responsible, then we’re not going to give you the freedom,” says Seminole High principal Tom Brittain. “You have to show you’ve earned it.”

If more than 20 students are on ground notice at the same time, the school will go back to using bells. As of spring 2017, the numbers haven’t even come close to that.

Students say the no-bell policy forces them to be responsible and also creates a more peaceful school environment. Rather than 2,000 people racing to get to class at the same time, students trickle into the classroom throughout the six-minute break between classes. The hallways are less crowded and overall, students say they feel less stressed out.

“That last one-minute warning bell always made me anxious,” says senior Katie Lingenfelter, 17. “Now I know that if I’m 20 feet away from my classroom a few seconds before the period begins, I will still be okay.”

Tips To Stay On Schedule

  • Wear a watch. Not everyone can afford a phone. A watch will only set you back a few bucks.
  • Be prepared. Pack your lunch and pick out your clothes the night before.
  • Track how long things take. If you’re always running late, this will help you find out which parts of your morning routine are time wasters.
  • Give yourself a “time cushion.” Traffic jams happen. Always give yourself a few extra minutes to get where you’re going.
  • Put your stuff where you can find it. Always put your keys, phone and bag in the same place so you don’t have to waste time looking for them each morning.