Rude Awakening For Sleepy U.S. Students

By Zach Howard Features Reuters

Chronically tardy and truant students at a Massachusetts high school are getting a rude awakening -- a pre-recorded morning wake-up call from their school principal.
The so-called "robo-calls" that began on Wednesday are aimed at rousting about 500 students, the worst-offending sleepyheads, from bed and getting them to school on time.

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"It's 6:15 and it's Durfee High School calling," booms the voice of Principal Paul Marshall of B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, according to Vice Principal Ross Thibault.
Robo-calls are typically used to notify parents of weather-related school delays and cancellations.

Durfee joins other U.S. schools in Massachusetts and Illinois and New York which have taken on the added role of alarm clock to combat high rates of tardiness and absenteeism.
In New York City the wake-up calls feature the voice of former professional basketball star Magic Johnson.

At Durfee High School in Fall River, about 46 miles south of Boston, 20% of the student body will be getting routine phone calls at home at 6:15 a.m. The school day's first class begins at 7:45 a.m.

Administrators hope the effort will boost attendance from 88% now to at least 95%.
"Historically, we have battled attendance problems. We are an urban district and our attendance has always been a concern," Thibault said.

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The school resorted to the calls after failing to improve attendance with punishments like detention or enforced study hours at schools, he added.

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