Buses and tardies and WiFi, Oh My!


The start of the 2017-18 school year has brought about a few key changes for DHS. Ross Thibault has entered the school as principal. Instead of deans, students have a trifecta of assistant and associate principals. Furthermore, the words “Teachers, please hold your attendance,” have become a staple in the morning announcements.

Cars and buses have had to wait in long lines of traffic at the school’s main entrances. The Padanaram Bridge and causeway construction is a contributing factor to this gridlock, but the major culprit is the new bus routes. Mr. Thibault said, “From what I have been told, they were trying to adjust the routes to allow students to get onto the bus as late as possible. In previous years, the buses arrived before traffic, but since they now arrive at the same time, it has caused problems.”

Students who drive themselves to school have been especially frustrated by the situation. Senior Noah DeRossi-Goldberg believes the situation needs to be rectified. “Before school time is very important to me to prepare for the day,” he said, “and because of the traffic, I am losing that valuable time.”

Some student drivers have even been tardy due to being stuck behind a late bus. Junior Bridget McCabe has arrived late due to being stuck in the traffic. “If I want to get to school on time, I have to leave my house at 7:00 to get to school for 7:25,” she said. “I only live six minutes away from the school, but I sit in traffic for a while in the morning.” She has found the situation to be very inconvenient.

Because of such issues, the district reconfigured the bus routes so that all buses arrive before school begins. This went into effect on September 13 and has been successful since the 14th, easing the traffic troubles.

However, students have still struggled with being punctual, resulting in grievances with the new stricter tardy policy.  Instead of solely encouraging students to be on time with a pizza incentive, students who are frequently tardy will face disciplinary consequences. Those who have four unexcused tardies in one quarter will have a detention with an assistant principal and their parents will receive a phone call informing them of the situation. Upon the fifth and sixth tardies, students will be faced with a three day social suspension, preventing them from participating in extracurriculars or athletics during that period. The social suspension is extended over a five-day period upon the seventh tardy.

If a student is late due to reasons such as a doctor’s appointment, court hearing, or funeral, they will be excused. In addition, students who are tardy due to extenuating circumstances can discuss the situation with an assistant principal who will judge the situation on a case-to-case basis.

Mr. Thibault explained the reasoning behind the new policy. “It is impossible for a teacher to conduct a class if they have to stop to let students in. Our teachers are expected to teach from bell to bell,” he said. “We want our students to participate in extracurriculars, but they are students first.” The policy also prepares students for the punctuality standards that coincide with employment.

Students’ opinions of the new policy are varied. Junior Madison Correia found it to be unfair. “I think it’s very hypocritical that the school has a strict tardy policy, but can’t get their buses to school on time,” she said. “The services that they provide can’t even follow their rules.”

Other students were less concerned with the situation. DeRossi-Goldberg said, “I think it’s a good way to get people more motivated to get to school on time, although I get how some can see it as a targeted attack on athletes.” If students are not involved in athletics, band, or a club that meets during their social suspension, they will be unaffected by the penalty.

In addition, to altering the tardy policy, administration has also replaced agenda books with paper passes. Teachers will distribute individual hall passes to students when necessary, signing off on them just as they had with the agendas. According to Mr. Thibault, the reasoning behind this is cost effectiveness. Most students were not using their agenda book as a homework planner, so they essentially became very expensive hall passes. Many students, such as sophomore Ian Berens felt indifferent towards the change. “I have never used my agenda book to write down homework. I just memorized it,” he said. “It doesn’t affect me.”

History Teacher Caitlin McCaron-Deely had a similar view. “I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. It is what it is,” she said. Because of issues of germs and conserving paper, she attached two passes to lanyards for students to use when travelling to the bathroom.

Others also had concerns about the amount of paper the hall passes use. “The bathroom passes are stupid,” said sophomore Sarah Hurteau. “They’re a waste of paper.”

The students that were most affected were arguably the minority who actually used their agenda books to record assignments, including junior Hannah Chamberlain. “How do they expect kids to succeed and be organized when they don’t give them the materials to do so?” she said. Chamberlain purchased her own homework planner to replace the agenda books. However, some students may lack the ability to do the same for financial reasons.

A very popular complaint among students has been the school’s public WiFi network. While some students have reported no problems with the internet, many were unable to use it during school. Senior Caroline Mello said, “When on the network, it is too slow to load anything, and sometimes I can’t connect at all, especially at lunch.” She has had trouble receiving and sending important emails and was unable to use her phone when assigned to do so for class.

Freshman Audrey French expressed a similar sentiment. “In history class, we have to look up terms all the time on our phones. I have to ask someone else for the answers because I can’t connect to the WiFi.”

Even teachers have had difficulty with WiFi. Physical Education Teacher Mark Gaffney was unable to instruct his students on how to utilize Google Classroom due to his lack of internet connection. “I couldn’t get hooked up,” he said. “They fixed it, so I’m hooked up now. It affected me, but in a minor way.”

According to Mr. Thibault, administration had not yet caught wind of this issue. “I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I would encourage students having this issue to speak to their assistant principal, so it can be given to the tech director.” He denied speculation that students were removed from the internet in order to discourage phone use. In fact, teachers were moved off the public WiFi in hopes of granting the students faster internet.

In retrospect, these are minor changes.  Many students are uncaring. “I’m indifferent to most of it,” said junior Paul Jasmin. “I’m on time to school, I never write in my agenda book, and I don’t use the school WiFi.”