Pinedale examines blocking cell phone use in schools

Cody Olivas Pinedale Roundup Via Wyoming News Exchange

PINEDALE – As more research emerges regarding the impact of smartphones on the lives of adults and teenagers, Sublette County School District No. 1 is considering a partnership with Yondr, a company that creates phone-free learning environments for schools.
While smartphones have great utility, their use has increasingly become a source of distraction and conflict, both at home and in learning environments.
In 2017, the University of Texas concluded that “the mere presence of cell phones reduces available cognitive capacity.”
In addition, inappropriate cell phone use is increasingly becoming a discipline issue for schools.
Schools that have implemented Yondr have noted significant improvements to school culture and climate.
Allison Silvestri, principal for California’s East Bay High School, said, “The changes have already been profound. ... Kids are more focused and engaged during class, and student journals suggest the high schoolers are feeling less anxious and more relaxed.”
East Bay students also noted improvements in performance and the teachers noticed reductions in discipline referrals.
Approximately 600 schools around the U.S. currently use Yondr.
In addition to schools, musicians, comedians and courts have also started using Yondr for phone-free atmospheres.
The way Yondr works is simple. When students come to school, they place their phones in an assigned Yondr cell phone pouch. The pouch locks and the students keep their pouch with them. Students maintain possession of their cellphones throughout the day, but they will not be able to use them until they are unlocked at the end of the day.
One of the more beneficial aspects of cell phones in the learning environment is their ability to provide assistance and communication during times of emergency. Each classroom and office would be equipped with an unlock station that would allow students to quickly unlock their phones in an emergency.
Sublette County School District No. 1 has successfully piloted the Yondr program at Skyline Academy and the school board will consider implementing the program in grades 6 through 12 at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 10.
If approved, full implementation would take place next year with possible field-testing at Pinedale Middle School and Pinedale High School later this year, as time allows.
To use the service, it would cost approximately $12 per student per year, or about $3,000 for each school.
Feedback from the school board and parents has pointed to issues involving social media. Looking to deal with social media is when superintendent Jay Harnack said he discovered Yondr, which, he said, addresses other problems as well.
“Generally young people are addicted to their phones and it creates issues with focus and job performance,” Harnack said. “(Yondr) addresses more than social media.”
Currently, students are allowed to have their phones with them while they’re at school and it’s up to their teachers to monitor them. The proposal for phone-free schools is in alignment with the district’s current strategic plan, which includes a focus on increasing student engagement.


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