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Mixed reviews for Catholic high school's early morning bell

Our Lady of the Bay Catholic School in Collingwood moved to an 8 a.m. start time this past September, a full hour earlier than last year
2022-06-27 OLB JO-001
Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School is on Collins St. in Collingwood.

The alarm clock is going off earlier this year for Our Lady of the Bay Catholic School (OLB) students.

Starting this September, the bell rings at OLB at 8 a.m., which is earlier than the previous 9 a.m. start time, and more in-line with the 8 a.m. start time of its neighbour down the road Collingwood Collegiate Institute.

CollingwoodToday spoke with four OLB students on their lunch break this week, to find out how the change is impacting them.

“I much prefer it. I like getting up early, and leaving school early, because I have more time at the end of the day to go to the gym,” said Cameron. “I used to have a problem because I didn’t have time after school to do all the stuff I wanted, but now I have plenty of time.”

“In elementary, it started at 9:25 a.m. I like to wake up early,” said Christian. “I get up at 5 a.m. I’m always tired.”

But not all students were fans of the change.

“I have to be up at 6. It’s stupid. I find it so difficult,” said Noah. “I didn’t sleep last night so I’m pretty tired now. My alarm doesn’t go off sometimes. It should definitely go back.”

“I don’t wake up on time, so I have like 10 minutes to get ready for school,” said Jayda. “I’m OK with it though because I like getting home at like 2.”

According to online resource e-MentalHealth prepared through the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, teenagers (aged 14 to 17) typically need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, but may range between seven and 11 hours depending on the teen. When youth don’t get enough sleep, teenagers can exhibit mood problems such as irritability, have trouble concentrating and show signs of hyperactivity. Physical problems like getting sick more often can also be a result of not enough sleep.

Clearview, Collingwood, Springwater, Wasaga Beach Catholic board trustee Shawn Cooper represents Our Lady of the Bay, and says while he heard some concerns about the decision back when it was made in April, that he hasn’t had calls complaining about the change recently.

“They haven’t reached out to me,” said Cooper. “Moving times around and disrupting families and sleeping patterns of teenagers; it’s not something anyone wants to do.”

“I would personally like to see things remain status quo, but these were the best options presented to us,” he added.

The change this year, which was announced in April, was due to a shift in schedule requested by the Simcoe County Transportation Consortium, which is the group responsible for school busses across Simcoe County. Multiple schools changed their bell times so fewer drivers would be out on the road.

According to the Simcoe County District School Board, all the changes this year eliminated the need for 8.5 full-sized buses, for $357,500 in savings at the public board. At the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, their changes also resulted in $357,500 in savings.

The public school board is currently dealing with a $2 million deficit in their transportation budget from the province, while the Catholic board is dealing with a $350,000 deficit.

Cooper said there were challenges in attracting staff to bus driver positions as well through the consortium, which also played a role in the decision.

“There’s a shortage there across the province,” he said.

Pauline Stevenson, communications manager with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, told CollingwoodToday this week that the earlier bell time for Our Lady of the Bay, as well as the same change for Patrick Fogerty Secondary School in Orillia this year, puts those two schools in line with the same earlier bell time at all the high schools within the Catholic board.

“They’re the last of the changes we’re making in our board,” she said. “We’ve been doing early start times in Barrie for as long as I can remember.”

“Those types of changes are more important now than they ever have been because we’re underfunded in the transportation portfolio from the Ministry of Education. It’s extremely challenging,” said Stevenson.

While Stevenson acknowledges some OLB parents did reach out at the beginning of the school year with concerns, she says everyone has since adjusted to the change.

“There doesn’t seem to be any particular issues with how it’s running at the school,” she said. “It’s working.”