Bellingham Bell Schedule Due To Change In 2023-24 School Year


Jones Walther

In the upcoming 2023-24 school year, the Bellingham School District plans to change the bell schedule for Bellingham, Squalicum, and Sehome High School.

With the new schedule, students would only have advisory two days a week instead of every day, with those two days being either Tuesday and Wednesday or Thursday and Friday. Additionally, the advisory period would be forty minutes long instead of twenty-five.

While there has been talk of an eight-period day, members of the High School Advisory Task Force—who have been discussing how the district should change the bell schedule—have said that that proposal is not in consideration.

“We have students who attend the Northwest Career and Technical Academy, they go down to Mount Vernon. And so, they go down there every morning, and they get back at lunchtime. So, if we do an eight-period day one of the things we’re seeing is that they would always miss that 3rd and 4th period,” says Heather Steele, Assistant Principal at Bellingham High School and member of the task force.

Advisory has been a bit of a puzzler for the Bellingham School District for many years now. The schedule around advisory has changed every year since the 2017-18 school year, when the ‘Big Three’ schools (Bellingham, Squalicum, and Sehome) started using the same bell schedule.

The main reason for this is that the district doesn’t quite believe that advisory is fulfilling its intended purpose.

“The issue that we’re trying to address is giving kids enough time to get help and getting kids to buy into looking at what their options are post-high school,” says Connie Campbell, choir teacher at Bellingham High School.

Campbell believes that the advisory schedule changes are intended to provide more in-depth help to students than can be given with the current twenty-five-minute sessions.

Chris Carlson, Assistant Principal at BHS and member of the task force, says that a longer advisory would give students time to “complete a lab or finish a test because most of our teachers said that’s what they think the most important part of advisory is, is getting that extra help during the school day that students need.”

“Lots of students ride the bus, or have activities after school, or can’t get here before or after school to get support. So, if we can carve out specific time during the day where assistance and support is available to all students, that’s really important,” says Steele.

It isn’t just academic activities that the district hopes to promote either, a longer advisory may give time for extracurricular meetings.

“That forty-minute time slot is great for clubs, so we might be kind of promoting that more for next year and having clubs meet then instead of struggling to find something after school with sports,” says Iza Wilson, a student representative on the task force.

There is concern, however, that these decisions regarding the schedule were not made with enough input from people actually experiencing them.

“I think they made a good effort to have representatives come up with the recommendations,” says Campbell.

But the number of representatives on the task force turned out to be quite low.

“I was the only student from Bellingham high, and then we had one student from Sehome. There was nobody from Squalicum or Options. We had, like, one parent come in and a couple teachers. It was mostly administrators and we had assistant principals come in, and that was good, but students who were being actually affected, we had so little people show up,” said Wilson.

However, the task force has sent out surveys regarding advisory in hopes of getting student opinions about advisory and how they think it should be used.

Steele says that the responses to the survey helped to “frame the directions that [the task force] went.”

Some worry that the survey was not an adequate measure for how students feel about the schedule changes.

“But was the survey about the schedule? It was about Advisory. And not about the change in the schedule. So, I mean, that’s a clarification you need to make. Theyput up a survey about advisory, not necessarily the change in the schedule. Because they’re going to say, ‘we put out a survey!’” says an anonymous source.

Steele and Carlson admit that, while the proposal information has been shared with all BHS staff, students have not yet been given an opportunity to look over the proposed changes to the schedule and give their feedback on it.

The schedule for the 2023-24 school year has not been finalized yet, and there are still many factors the district must consider, like state-required instructional minutes (which is actually why the district is unable to extend lunch on non-advisory days). The district will continue to discuss what they believe to be the best option for the schedule, but until they decide, nothing is set in stone.