I'm wondering why Medford schools have switched from the traditional bell to start school and end recess and lunch? The school near us now uses a klaxon kind of tone, sounds kind of like a European police siren. I don't have any particular objection to it, but just wondering if there was a specific reason for the change?

— Lucy, Medford

Some of the parolees here at Since You Asked Institute for the Chronically Curious have also heard the new school "bells." They said they quickly recovered from their initial fears that they'd finally been caught for ... well, we'll just leave it at that.

At any rate, Lucy, the new sound you're hearing is associated with new intercoms that have been installed in some of Medford's schools. According to district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd, the new systems have an electronic library that allows school officials to choose the sound that their "bell" makes.

They also provide additional safety features, she noted in an email.

"For example," she wrote, "in the event of a lockout or lockdown, we are able to override all the bells in order to issue direction to students and staff immediately."

So, Lucy, that tone you hear is the sound of progress.

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