When kids at Truesdell Middle School hustle to class in the morning, they do it to "The Hustle."
North High students speed up when they hear the "William Tell Overture."
And the Pioneers at West High get rollin'-rollin'-rollin' to the theme from "Rawhide."
The latest tool for battling tardiness at many local schools is old-fashioned Pavlovian conditioning: Music — usually the same tune each day — plays over hallway or parking lot speakers as a cue for students to get to class.
Never miss a local story.
Wichita district officials say the practice began at North High in the mid-1990s, when former principal Ralph Teran started playing the fast-paced Lone Ranger theme about three minutes before the 8 a.m. bell.
The idea caught on, and now the technique is used across the city.
"It's fun, and it also takes the guesswork out of how much time they have to get to class," said Jennifer Sinclair, principal at Truesdell.
"When the music starts, you're in motion. Close your locker, finish your conversation. It's time to go."
Truesdell employs a trio of morning tunes: "The Hustle," James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and the theme from "Mission Impossible."
Sinclair chose "I Got You (I Feel Good)" for its upbeat message and infectious saxophone, not to mention that wake-me-up "Woowww!" And students seem to like it.
Recently, one boy paused briefly in the hallway to sing along: ... And when I hold you... in my arms... my love won't do you no harm!
"It's just such a fun song, a fun way to start the day," Sinclair said.
By the time the techno riffs of "Mission Impossible" start, though, exactly 60 seconds before the morning bell, any students left in the hallway know they'd better hurry.
"There's that panic then, like, 'Oh my gosh, "Mission Impossible!" '" she said.
Leroy Parks cued up music at Southeast High shortly after becoming principal there four years ago. He and other administrators chose Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" for a few reasons.
"First, there's that 'Go, Johnny, go-go-go,' like 'Get moving. Go to class,' " he said. "And there's also 'Johnny, be good,' which is a message we hope to convey."
Parks said the music reduced the number of tardies and the level of nagging. Because it was so effective in the morning, he decided to play it again at the end of lunch.
"I used to be ushering kids along and saying, 'OK, guys, you have two minutes,' or 'You have one minute,' " Parks said. "Now they know exactly how much time they have. We don't have to say a word."
Even without formal instruction, freshmen and new students quickly learn that music means class is about to start, said Sherman Padgett, principal at North.
"They see it gets all the other bees in the hive to buzzing," he said. "It really doesn't take long."
One drawback to the music technique, however: Students become lost without it.
"It's rare that we make this mistake, but at least once a year we start the music late, and the kids don't move," Padgett said.
"They've almost been conditioned too much. The bell could ring at 10 after 8, and they'd still be standing around like, 'What? What do we do? What happened to the music?' "
Another side effect: No matter how great the piece of music, if a school plays it often enough, students eventually hate it. By making the "William Tell Overture" synonymous with morning rush hour, Padgett joked, North High has likely caused a generation of students to loathe the orchestral classic.
When Parks, the Southeast principal, played "Johnny B. Goode" as the final song at a school dance recently, students groaned. Some covered their ears and begged for mercy.
"I don't think any of them will be buying Chuck Berry's greatest hits anytime soon," he said.