Opinion: Ding Dong! Ditch This Bell!

This new and wildly infuriating foghorn of an alarm was simply not what this high school needed nor wanted.

Hawaii DOE

This new and wildly infuriating foghorn of an alarm was simply not what this high school needed nor wanted.

Isabella Fournier and Nick Crafa

At least nineteen times throughout the day up until the end of 2021, the Northport High School student body got to hear the occasionally muffled ringing of the school’s bell. Once to mark the start of the school day and then twice a period thereafter, it has always been one of the most utilized utilities in our school. 

Obviously, this frequent use meant that the functional issues which plagued the bell and PA system towards the end of the year needed to be addressed; the bell was muffled and hard to hear in certain areas of the school. Occasionally, it would ring several minutes late or even not at all. 

Considering that the bell marks the start and end of each period, both of those issues are fairly serious. It’s easy to see why the administration moved so quickly during the holiday break in order to update the system with a completely new bell. The dysfunction of the previous one undeniably needed to be remedied. 

However, the new and wildly infuriating foghorn of an alarm that was installed was simply not what this high school needed nor wanted.

When you hear the same noise over and over again more than a dozen times a day, it can become irritating after a while. However, on January 3, 2022 when the student body came back after break, the new bell didn’t get annoying “after a while” simply because it became annoying almost immediately. 

While the first reactions at the new morning bell ranged from confusion to instant irritation, the consensus was that the sound was bothersome. This past week, the new bell has been equated to a prison bell, a foghorn, the sound of a ship’s hull sliding along a dock, and many other creative — yet incredibly accurate — comparisons. 

If none of those descriptions serve to aptly show how frustrating the new sound is, take into account that it has not just been students complaining about it. Teachers in various wings have been voicing their complaints over the harsh blare of the new bell. Teachers spend just as much of their time in this building as the average student, and unlike the students, they will all be here for more than four years. 

One hundred and eighty days of school, nineteen times in a day; considering the frequency with which the bell is utilized, the reaction to this update is completely justified. 

Northport High School may not be where students wish to spend their weekdays from September through June, but it’s where they’re required to be anyhow. As such, irksome noises such as this join the pile-up of instances that can make the school’s environment simply awful to be in. It’s unnecessarily harsh and jarring, especially early in the morning when most of the student body is barely sentient enough to pay attention during first period. 

This past week, the new bell has been equated to a prison bell, a foghorn, the sound of a ship’s hull sliding along a dock, and many other creative — yet incredibly accurate — comparisons. ”

— Isabella Fournier

Obviously, the intention of the administration was to fix the technological issues of the bell system; to this, they accomplished what they set out to do. However, along the way, they managed to vex a majority of students and many teachers. They never consulted the student body regarding the tone of a bell they’d hear so many times a day. 

Were they required to? No, of course not. But had they, perhaps the bell could have been fixed with a different system or tone that would’ve made more listeners happy. Another fact of note about this entire ordeal is less well-known: The new system itself contains eight possible bell tones; the sound we currently hear is apparently the best of the bunch. 

Why would the school administration invest in a system with such egregious options? The question has been baffling me since this whole situation started. Have the administrators even heard the displeasure radiating from the collective student body every time that ear-splitting noise rings throughout the school? 

Perhaps they should consider a trial with all eight tones offered by the new system and give their students the opportunity to vote on it. Frankly, the student body should be given the opportunity to exercise their voice on the matter, considering they must sit through the bell just like everyone else in the building. 

And honestly, if all the options are as bad as they have made them out to be, why then did they even purchase this new bell system to begin with? 

The following is an email interview conducted by Port Press contributor Nick Crafa with Principal Mr. Dennis regarding the change of bell systems:

What inspired the school to change the sound of the bell? 

The PA system in the building was updated. The bell is an extension of the PA system. 

Why did the school choose the particular sound effect that is now heard? 

The company charged with updating the PA system has a menu of choices in terms of bell sounds. The bell that we were used to hearing was no longer an option. This bell sound was one of seven options that were taken into consideration and ultimately chosen. The sound was chosen because it is most similar to the old one and was the best option of the seven.

In your opinion, is the new sound better than the old one? 

Both bells accomplish the goal of starting/ending class and having people move from one location to the next. The old bell tone was familiar and this one will take some time to get used to.

Is there any way to change the sound? 

We inquired if the old bell sound was an option. Unfortunately, it is not.