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Cell Phones in Schools

Cell Phones in Schools

While cell phones and other devices have many benefits, they can be a distraction to student learning and harmful to mental wellbeing. Beginning in fall 2023, school policy at all schools is to keep phones and personal devices “off and away the entire day”.

We have also considered bringing in magnetic Yondr pouches for students at CHS, LMA, and Buford to store their devices during the day, but Yondr is not currently in use in our schools. 

You can find additional information in this 2023 flyer about cell phone usage, or read on, below.

  • Thank you for your support of the “off and away the entire day” phone policy this fall. We have heard reports that it is making a big difference in our classrooms, and to a lesser degree, in our hallways, lunchrooms, and restrooms.

    We know that the impact of student cell phone use is not only felt in classrooms. Cell phone use impacts our students’ mental health, their in-person relationships, and the overall school culture.

    As we mentioned earlier this year, we are continuing to explore and work with Yondr, the company that coordinates a program of magnetic pouches that hold phones. The Yondr team will be meeting with the Buford and CHS staffs next week to address practical questions and teach their protocols. As we prep for these meetings, we thought it would be helpful for you all to take a few minutes to watch this video Yondr produced providing an overview of their program.

    In the coming weeks and months, we will share additional resources, such as past webinars with Yondr clients as they honestly and openly discuss the challenges and wins of implementing Yondr in their public schools. We are also planning opportunities for our students to learn about the impacts of cell phones and social media, providing opportunities for dialogue.

    Thanks for your support of our schools!

  • Dear Buford and CHS families, students, and staff –

    We wanted to give you an update about our student cell phone policy.

    As you know, we held some initial feedback meetings in the community and on a zoom meeting before starting the school year with “off and away the entire day.” Now that the school year is underway, the cellphone committee will resume its work, and we will begin scheduling more opportunities for students, staff, and families to share feedback.

    We thought we’d supply an update about “how it started” and “how it’s going.”

    How it Started – Off and Away the Entire Day

    • Off and away the entire day has been in place since the first day of school. Students and families have been very cooperative, and we have received many comments and emails from teachers, students, and families reporting that they appreciate the change in atmosphere and reduction in distractions. We are aware that students can – and sometimes do – still retrieve their phones from their backpacks in places such as the restrooms, which reduces the mental health benefits of the cell phone break. 

    How It’s Going – Exploring Yondr Pouches

    • We continue to investigate Yondr, a system where students use magnetic pouches to keep their phones in their own backpacks. As noted, for students who need their phones for medical interventions, we would set up a plan for that child. We are not in a rush to implement Yondr pouches – the Yondr pouch program will only be successful if our students, staff, and families reach consensus on seeing it as the best path forward and in the best interests of students.

    What We’ve Heard

    As we have discussed Yondr pouches, we’ve heard three main areas of concern:

    1. Last-minute transportation changes due either to family situations changing or a school cancellation of after-school activities, etc.

    2. Concerns about whether the schools’ offices can handle family phone calls

    3. Access to phones during emergency situations

    We will bring these and other questions to Yondr, which operates in schools in 16 countries, and to public schools that are already using Yondr pouches. We know that these concerns are universal, not unique to any one location, and we hope to learn from other communities.

    What We’re Doing

    In the meanwhile, however, we’d like to begin working on the feedback we have heard. Here are three things we’ve done so far:

    1. At Buford, we broadened families’ ability to reach their students via email (matching what was already in place at CHS) to give families an additional way to work out, for example, last-minute changes in transportation. (Make sure your student has added your emails to their school Gmail address book!)

    2. We are going to be implementing a phone routing system in some of our school offices to better manage phone calls and lighten the load of school staff at our bigger schools.

    3. Along with ParentSquare, we have implemented StudentSquare for CHS students so that they can stay up to date on both routine school news and unexpected situations.

    As for access to phones during emergency situations, this is the top question we have received, and we take it very seriously. We know it is only human to want to be connected in situations where stress is high. We continue to research best practices for emergencies or unexpected situations. This applies to our training and preparation for safety situations, our communications to students/staff/families, and our decision-making around students’ access to phones in such circumstances. Because this is so important, we will stay in the mode of “off and away the entire day” until we have a plan that gains consensus among staff, students, and families.

    Next Steps: More Research, More Listening

    • Having heard these top concerns, now that the busy first few weeks of school are behind us, our cell phone committee will restart its work. We will continue this discussion, and we begin the work of bringing your questions to Yondr and other school communities. Their answers may or may not be satisfactory to our community, and, as always, we are looking to find what will best serve our local community. As part of that, we will continue bringing ideas and plans to our staff, students, and families so that we can consider any proposals from all angles. Stay tuned for focus groups, learning sessions, and more.
    • As we have said before, we do not currently have consensus around Yondr pouches, although the initial roll-out of “off and away the entire day” has been well received. We do have consensus on the values of mental wellness, academic growth, and safety – and we will use these values to chart our path forward.

    Thanks for your continued partnership!

    Dr. G

  • Dear Buford and CHS families –


    We are excited to welcome you to school for open houses and the start of classes next week.


    Thanks to a number of you for reaching out with questions or comments relating to our cell phone procedures. 


    Off and Away The Entire Day at Start of School Year

    I want to remind you that for the start of school, we will be using the policy of “off and away the entire day.” This means that a student’s phone, smart watch, headphones, or other personal devices need to be off and stored in a device such as a backpack during the entire school day. For students who don’t bring a backpack to school, the school will supply a container such as a pencil case.


    Additional Listening and Learning about Yondr

    I also want to clarify that before we begin using Yondr pouches, we will take time to get feedback, do additional research, answer questions, and make adjustments as needed. We know that students, families, and staff need to feel informed, confident, and supported for the implementation of Yondr to be a success.


    Zoom This Sunday at 6pm

    We will continue to hold informational and listening sessions so that we can continue to hear and address concerns about the cell phone policy. As a reminder, the next opportunity is a Zoom Q&A on Sunday, August 20, 6-7pm. Click here to register.


    Next Steps

    As we hear your specific questions, we will turn to Yondr and their longtime school clients to find what has worked well. For instance, one question I’ve heard from several people is, “What about a lockdown or sudden schedule change? How will my child text me?” We will pass along these questions to the Yondr team and to other communities that use Yondr to see how they have addressed these concerns.

    Currently in Charlottesville–as around the country–we do not have consensus on a specific strategy for cell phones in schools. However, I am confident that we do have consensus on the larger and more important issues of safety, mental health, learning, and community. We will build on these values as we chart a path forward. 


    In the meanwhile, remember: “Off and away the entire day”! Let’s disconnect from phones, and connect with our learning, one another, and our mental wellness.


    Dr. G


  • Disconnecting from phones will allow us to connect with each other, connect with learning, and connect with calm. Let’s all work together to improve our learning, relationships, and mental wellness.

    Big Ideas

    • Phones and personal devices will be off and away for the whole day. (No cell phone breaks.)
    • Later this fall, CHS, LMA, & Buford students will start using magnetic Yondr pouches to store devices. The pouches snap shut and are unlocked at the end of the day. Once the phones are turned off and stored in the magnetic pouches, students will keep their phones, perhaps storing them in the backpack. When we start using the Yondr pouches, our cell phone policy will be "Off, Yondr, and Away." Info:
    • Cville Schools wifi will be limited to school-approved devices.
    • Students staying after school for activities can use the phone/ device if it doesn't detract from the activity.
    • If families need to get a message to students, contact the office. For important items, you can send your student an email (but school email is primarily for instructional purposes).
    • If your student uses their phone for medical reasons, please set up a meeting with admin to explore options.
    • During safety protocols or bad weather, administrators will send students, staff, and families factual info as soon as possible
    • We are developing plans, and we are also listening to the community!

    More Information

    • What if the phone or device is not off and away (or "Off, Yondr, and Away")?
    • 1st time - administration will be called. They'll ask the student to relinquish the phone, and the student can pick it up at the end of day. 
    • 2nd time - administration will be called. They’ll ask the student to relinquish the phone, and the parent/guardian can pick it up at the end of the day. 
    • Especially during the first month of school, this will be recorded as student support instead of a student referral.

    More Details

    • Using/displaying/having the phone outside the Yondr pouch will not be an out-of-school suspension.
    • When an administrator requests the student relinquish the phone, they will offer a reluctant student a choice: give the phone to the admin, or call the family. The family has the choice of encouraging the child to hand over the phone or coming to pick up the student. 
    • Refusing to give an administrator the phone when requested may result in further disciplinary action.
    • Using the phone inappropriately (for bullying or filming a fight, etc.) may result in significant consequences, including no phone on school grounds for the rest of the year.

    More About Safety

    • As noted, during safety protocols or inclement weather, administrators will get students, staff, and families factual info as soon as possible. We will review safety and mental health protocols with students and staff every 9 weeks. Administrators will be able to unlock Yondr pouches in specific safety scenarios such as evacuation to another location.

    What's a "Personal Device"?

    • Devices are always changing, but we're talking about items that interfere with students' learning, relationships, and mental health. This includes phones, smart watches, and headphones.

    What about Teachers/Staff?

    • Staff will model this behavior. They will be fully present for their students.

    More Info: