Chicopee Comprehensive High to lock down student cell phones during the school day, joining Chicopee High

CHICOPEE – Comprehensive High School will soon enclose teenage cellphones in magnetic pouches, after staff at its sister high school reported seeing students’ grades and concentration levels improve when they did the same.

Comprehensive High School plans to implement a program where students are each given a cell phone pouch that is locked with specialized magnets when they enter the school. At dismissal, the phones are unlocked.

High school staff first raised concerns about students constantly distracted by cellphones in January, saying students returned from a year of remote learning primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic more dependent than ever from their phone.

Chicopee High principal Carol Kruser has asked that the current cell phone policy – ​​which allows students to use their phones in the hallway and at lunch – be suspended so she can try the program developed by a company Californian called Yondr. The school committee voted to authorize the pilot.

At the time, comprehensive secondary school principal Andrew Lamothe said staff at his school would instead crack down on illicit cellphone use by following a zero-tolerance policy.

“It worked but it takes the argument out of everyday phones,” Lamothe said.

This makes it easier for teachers to connect with students if they don’t have to create animosity by constantly telling students to put their phones away, he said.

After several months of trying the Yondr program, Kruser said teachers found students were paying more attention in class, their grades were improving and they were working harder.

“We have data that shows an improvement in school culture and discipline,” Lamothe said. “If we can get better academic guidance for students, it’s money well spent.”

The cost of the Yondr pouches, system, and training was around $15,000 at Chicopee High School. Comprehensive High School’s enrollment is about 1,200 students, about 250 more than Chicopee High, so the price will be a bit higher but still under $20,000, he said.

The most expensive year is the first when schools have to purchase the system and receive rep training. Costs decline in subsequent years, he said.

The argument that students use their phones for academic purposes is negated since the school provides Chromebooks to every teenager. The very few students who need access to their phone for medical reasons or in an emergency are given gated pouches with strict instructions not to misuse them, Lamothe said.

It also makes it easier to implement the system since staff have already been able to visit Chicopee High and see how it works. The teachers there have already worked out the issues which they can pass on to their sister school, he said.

Lamothe has already informed the school committee of his plans to implement the system. Because he’s already been approved for Chicopee High, he doesn’t need a formal vote but said he wants to keep members informed.

When students return to school on September 1, he will begin talking to them and their parents about the program. Lamothe said he only plans to implement it later in the month after classes end.

Comprehensive High isn’t the only one implementing the program. Springfield’s Central High School also started it when students returned from summer vacation.

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