The Cove School District’s traditional bell system is going the way of the slide rule, typewriter and vinyl record.

The school district’s old electrically operated bell system has been silenced by a new $16,500 Visiplex wireless bell and public address system, which was installed, for the most part, five months ago.

“It is awesome,” said Cove High School Principal Mat Miles.

The system’s many features include one allowing elementary school classes to be conducted each day without interruptions from bells for high school classes. The old metal bells previously rang in the elementary school for high school classes because several high school classes are taught in the elementary building. This meant elementary school students heard more than 10 bells a day.

“The bells were disruptive for grade school students,” said Cove School District Superintendent Earl Pettit.

Miles agrees.

“They were very annoying and very loud,” the principal said.

Miles said portions of the old bell system may have been installed when the grade school was built in the 1930s.

“It is antiquated,” he said.

Today bells for the high school are still heard in the elementary school but only in classrooms where high school classes are taught. The new system sends the sound of bells to speakers in classrooms with the students and teachers the bells are meant for.

Another feature of the new system is an intercom that can be easily tailored to connect with specific classrooms. This allows separate school announcements to be read over the intercom system each morning for high school and grade school students. The grade school announcements are read by third-graders, and the high school an nouncements are set to be read by students in a leadership class. Pettit wants students to read the announcements instead of staff because of the learning opportunity it provides.

“I want them to be the ones gaining confidence,” he said.

The intercom system has two-way communication capabilities. With the press of a button, one can talk to the main office immediately from any classroom. The main office can also be reached by the telephones each classroom has had for many years and of course by cell phones.

“(The intercom system) is a good backup,” Pettit noted.

The wireless system also has an emergency warning program that will soon be installed. The system will send recorded messages to any of the school district’s buildings via the intercom.

Pettit said the system can send separate messages to different buildings depending on the emergency. For example, if a violent intruder walked into the grade school building, school officials would be able to press a button alerting everyone to lock all classroom doors and students and teachers should hide inside.

Pettit said the lockdown message may also state, “Lock, light, of out sight,” to remind everyone what to do.

At the same time, a button would be pressed alerting the high school that a lockout is in effect, with the exterior doors locked to prevent anyone from entering the building.

Another prerecorded message the system offers calls for “holding in the classroom” procedures. Pettit said this message is usually given when there is a medical emergency and teachers are asked to keep students in classrooms to prevent anyone from getting in the way of medical responders.

The superintendent said that having prerecorded messages ready could prove critical in an emergency. He explained that in a crisis situation people in charge of giving alerts can forget things like which code to use, but this is not an issue with the prerecorded message system.

See complete story in Monday's Observer