HELENA – Leaders at Helena’s C.R. Anderson Middle School say, over the last few years, smartphones have become a common sight.
“A lot of kids have phones. A lot of adults have phones,” said Principal Dave Thennis. “It’s part of what we do; it’s part of our society.”
Thennis said administrators have been thinking about ways to adjust to the increasingly prevalent devices.
“Over time, it just felt like we needed to refocus ourselves and create a little more balance with the technology in the building,” he said.
That’s why C.R. Anderson is introducing new policies on phone use, starting this month. During school hours, students won’t be allowed to use their devices in the hallways, or in classrooms without a teacher’s permission. They will still be able to use phones before and after school, and during lunch.
Thennis said these policies will allow teachers to make use of technology when it’s appropriate, and reduce distractions at other times.
“What we’re trying to do is use the technology when it enhances the instruction,” he said. “We’re leaving that to the discretion of the teachers in the classroom, to say, ‘Hey, now is an OK time. Let’s take a look at this.’”
The school is also working to inform students and parents about some of the other challenges that may be linked to smartphones and social media. They will bring in Marvin Weber, a Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s deputy, to give students presentations on safe internet use. The discussions will cover issues like cyberbullying and sexting.
C.R. Anderson held a Parents’ Night meeting on Tuesday – both to show parents what the presentations would include and to answer any questions they might have about the internet and new technology.
“I think it’s good for our parents, it’s good for my staff, and it’s good for me,” Thennis said.
So far, Thennis said there has been a wide variety of reaction to the new policies, but the majority has been positive.
“The kids have been receptive to it,” he said. “I’m sure that there’s a little bit of heartache over that sort of thing, but overall the kids have been great with just accepting that this is the way we’re going to move forward.”
Thennis said other schools in the Helena School District are also looking at how to address device use. He expects C.R. Anderson’s policies will be slightly more restrictive than those in high schools.