Hopewell Schools phone-free zone policy for middle, high school students

Hopewell City Schools said it would move to a phone-free zone policy for middle and high school...
Hopewell City Schools said it would move to a phone-free zone policy for middle and high school students.((SOURCE: NBC 12))
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 10:53 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 9:04 PM EDT
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Hopewell City Schools will move to a phone-free zone policy for middle and high school students.

The division said phones will not be out or used while at school and that the move is a step to “enhance student learning, culture, and safety at school.”

The move was approved unanimously at the May school board meeting.

“While we have attempted to accommodate student phones over the years and limit their use, we are finding that they are causing much more harm than help during the school day,” the division said in a social media post.

Starting at the beginning of the school year in July, Carter G. Woodson Middle and Hopewell High School will implement a locked pouch system for any phones brought to school.

“It locks by basically tapping it on the magnet when you enter the school and tapping it when you leave. So, it’s with you, but you can’t access until it’s unlocked,” Deputy Superintendent Jay McClain said Wednesday.

McClain said the pouches could only be unlocked using a large magnet at the schools’ entrances. He hopes to get teachers access to magnets as well. Most teachers agree this method will help keep students focused in class, but some parents worry about their kids’ safety.

“If there’s an active shooter or somebody that comes into that school, you’re not going to think about unlocking those phones. So now the parents aren’t going to know anything until something’s happened,” Jason Burdette said. His kids are 13 and 16 years old.

Meanwhile, Melinda Blake says this would be best for her 7th grader and other students in the district.

“Personally, I don’t see an issue. The school needs to do something to help combat the issue of using the cell phones and the distraction that cell phones cause,” Blake said. Both Blake and Burdette said they didn’t know anything about the policy being enforced until it was announced this week.

McClain said the district is working with safety experts to figure out a way to unlock the cases in case of a widespread emergency quickly. If students need to get in touch with their parents or guardian, they can still do so by using the school phones.

McClain said there would be exceptions for students with unique health needs, but Burdette believes it’s not worth the risk.

“I can see doing what they’re doing if they did it to kids that are constantly caught on their phones as a punishment,” Burdette said.

McClain said the program called Yondr had been used at other schools across the country. He said the district looked at what worked and what didn’t work at other schools and considered that before voting on the program.

Employees with Yondr will help students and staff adjust for the first few days. Students are expected to return to school under the new policy the week of July 25th.

McClain is asking parents and students to be opened-minded about the new policy. He also encourages parents to attend upcoming town hall meetings that will be held closer to when students return in July.

Parents will be notified when and where those meetings will be held.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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