Why is “School Time” Different than “Real Time”?


The clock is frozen at 3:24.

Max Simons

The clock is frozen at 3:24.
Despite the “Real Time” being 9:45am, this classroom clock is stuck at 3:24.

2:05PM — Walpole High School students’ favorite time of day. The time that students finally can rest from a long day of learning and hard work.  Most students can’t wait for the end of the day, but how would they feel if they knew that our school’s clock system was always wrong?  The official Walpole High School calendar says that the school day ends at 2:05pm, but in reality, all teachers and students know it ends at 2:08pm.

Because the time difference is ostensibly trivial, many students for year have simply accepted that “School-Time” is a separate timing system altogether. Checking your watch or phone in school is pointless because the WHS clock system is always three minutes behind “Real-Time.”

Although this three minute difference may seem trivial, it actually affects WHS students to a great extent.

The school’s timing system is based on the main phone system in the school. These systems are connected by the rectangular boxes near the entrance of every classroom.   These boxes hold the speaker for bells and announcements, the classroom clock (which is at least three minutes off if not entirely incorrect), and the landline.

All of these boxes are connected to a mainframe operating system in a janitorial closet in the Art Wing. On a regular school day, this mainframe — which is progressively more off each year — rings the bells three minutes late. Meanwhile, on a shortened school day (known as Early Release or a PLC Day), each bell is rung at the front office’s discretion: on some short days, they ring for “Real Time,” while on others they ring for “School Time.”

Unfortunately, although efforts have been made to fix this aging system, no technician has successfully calibrated the mainframe to “Real Time” in recent years.

“We are trying to fix the clock system,” said Gail Cunnane, Walpole High School Secretary. “And our maintenance contract should get the system fixed soon.”

However, while this trivial problem has largely become negligible, it does have consequences for the community.

For students who have sports practices that commence at 2:30, they have less time to get ready for practice. While they should have 25 minutes to get extra help if needed and get changed, they actually have only 22 minutes to accomplish these tasks because coaches operate by “Real-Time.”  Most sports and after school activities have very strict time limits to start, and coaches become infuriated when forced to wait for their athletes.

“It can be tough to get to practice on time when the clocks don’t match up,” said senior track Captain Kristen Coyne. “Once we get out of school, it’s already 2:08 and practice starts at 2:30, and the extra 3 minutes are very crucial.”

Teachers also do not like the time lapse because of the loss of class time. When students usually see, on their phones, that it is around 2:00pm, they will pack up their belongings and prepare to leave. Typically, the main office even begins their afternoon announcements around this time.  In the real world it may be around 2:05pm, but it is really 2:02pm. There are at least five-ten minutes of classes each day that are lost because students pack up early, and the teacher never knows when the bell may ring.

“I think it’s very annoying,” said Math Teacher Julie Butler. “Life would be a lot simpler if the bell system were aligned.”

The secretaries in the Main Office explained that the system has been reset a few times in the past few years, but nothing has stuck. The clocks are known for slipping a few minutes behind in time on the main phone, so the school follows this time lag.

“We go by the time on the phone in the front office,” said Gail Cunnane, WHS Secretary.

Although the school has tried to fix the clock in the past, the changes have not worked.  Since there are no changes in the works, do not expect any realignment anytime soon. For the foreseeable future, the school community must accept that the institution of Walpole High School will be 3 minutes behind the rest of the world.