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:
Last-minute transportation changes due either to family situations changing or a school cancellation of after-school activities, etc.
Concerns about whether the schools’ offices can handle family phone calls
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:
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!)
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.
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.