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New school bell out of sync with learning, Huntley High School student proves

Administrators at Huntley High School are considering a change to a new school bell after sophomore Kyle Ockerlund proved the tone of the bell is disruptive to learning.

The 16-year-old from Lake in the Hills, who founded the school’s experimental science society, devised tests to measure student concentration and showed that students exposed to the high-pitched bell didn’t perform as well on tests.

“We have to stay in class through the passing period bell,” Ockerlund says. “When that bell goes off in full volume in a silent room, it is a very piercing sound.”

Members of the science club helped Ockerlund develop and administer concentration tests to a group of 50 freshmen, sounding both the old and new bell sounds.

“We found a statistically significant difference,” he says, “that the new bell does, in fact, lead to a decrease — 10 percent — in student concentration.”

The investigation determined students took eight seconds longer, on average, to complete the test when the new bell rang,.

“I didn’t realize it was an issue,” Scott Rowe, the northwest suburban school’s principal, says of the bell, which was installed over spring break as an upgrade to the school’s public address system. “It was really enlightening that his results came out the way that they did.”

Administrators plan to use Ockerlund’s research as they explore what tone is optimal for learning, according to Rowe.

“He is an amazing kid,” he says of Ockerlund. “We are really trying to give our students a voice. . . . This is an example of how our school will receive some positive change because of how our student took this upon himself. Hopefully, we can find a tone that sounds good.”

Ockerlund says he’s pleased with the response.

“I didn’t expect anything,” he says. “Certainly, the response was more than welcoming, more than I had imagined it would be. We’re basically working together to get it switched. That’s extremely exciting.”