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Park City schools trying new program to eliminate cell-phone distractions

Posted at 6:18 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-20 15:57:01-04

PARK CITY — Smart phones can be a distraction, especially in schools. It's partly why the Park City School District is rolling out a new cellphone policy that's creating controversy.

The district is now requiring students lock their phones in Yondr pouches, which prevents use of the phone during the day.As of Monday, students are required to lock up their phones in the pouches each morning and can stop by "unlocking stations" during lunch and after school, when cellphone use is allowed.

“The bags have a magnetic clip that shuts and so they just carry it around with them. They just don’t get to use it,” Park City Schools Superintendent Dan Grabowska said Tuesday.

A Yondr pouch and unlocking device.

Grabowska says the reasons behind the policy are twofold. First, it eliminates distractions for students, he said.

“When the phone buzzes, kids are lost on their focus, so they’re not paying attention to what’s going on,” said Grabowksa.

Park City is the first school district in Montana to try the new program, according to Grabowska.

Cyberbullying is another reason for the new policy. Grabowska says it's something the district noticed that was more rampant at the beginning of the school year.

“We had harassment, bullying, the social media stuff that happens," he added.

The program is paid for through a safety grant through the Montana Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“If it’s effective we’ll continue it. If it’s not, then we’ll maybe look for something different,” said Grabowska.

There's evidence that it works. Yondr states that 83% of the 1,200 schools they partnered with last year reported improvements in student engagement.

“I like it because it gives more attention for the kids to actually listen to the teacher,” said parent Melaine Bartholomew.

Melaine Bartholomew

Bartholomew has four kids in the district.

“My daughter felt like kids were a little more active, like in P.E yesterday, ‘cuz there weren’t kids sitting on their phones,” she added.

Another parent, Sarah Lees, disagrees. She pulled her two kids out of the district last month because of what she says were issues with bullying.

“I just don’t see them making any headway on what I feel the bigger issues is,” Lees said.

She believes the new cell phone program is putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem. She also has concerns about the safety of the students if an incident, such as a school shooting, were to happen.

Sarah Lees with her dog, Lucy

“If my kids were in the school, and there was an incident like that, I would want them to feel like they weren’t trapped without being able to call for help,” said Lees.

It's something Grabowska has considered.

“The teachers have a cellphone. We have the classroom phones. We have the Ever Alert messaging systems which you can see behind you on the wall that we can run announcements on,” Grabowska said.