WENATCHEE — Wenatchee High School students are getting some extra help resisting the temptation to check their cell phones during class this year.

The school is implementing a new policy that the devices must be kept either in the student’s backpack or in a storage container during class, rather than in a back pocket or in the desk.

“In the past, we have asked students to put their phones away, but have not been specific about not having the phone on their person,” WHS Principal Eric Anderson said. “This had given students rather easy access to their phones. Every time a student’s phone received a notification, that created a distraction for that individual student. Many students then feel compelled to look at and to respond to the notification.”

The new policy eliminates that temptation and the distraction that goes with it.

Students will be allowed access to their phones between classes and at lunch time.

Earlier this month, Anderson sent a letter to parents outlining the new policy and explaining the new protocol. It also is posted on the school’s website and Facebook page, or available at wwrld.us/WHSletter.

“The impetus came from conversations with parents, teachers and students,” he said. “All of us recognize the need for a shift.”

The new rules started with the summer academy, Anderson said.

“The remainder of the building will be introduced to the policy during the first couple of days of school,” he said. Classes start Tuesday.

“The goal is to increase engagement in the classroom and to allow students to focus on the moment without the constant distraction of their phone.”

The challenge, as with most things, is consistency, he said.

“Our biggest challenge, always, is to create and uphold consistent expectations for our students. However, our staff sees the importance of this new policy and are committed to supporting this transition with fidelity for our students.”

The new rules are familiar to incoming WHS freshmen. Similar cell phone policies are in place at the middle schools, Anderson said.

Student cell phone use in schools has been a topic of conversation for years, connected not only with distractions, but cyberbullying. Schools take a variety of approaches on cell phone/electronics use:

  • In Eastmont, Superintendent Garn Christensen has recommended his district as a whole take a look at not only the student use of cell phones in schools, but at all screen-based learning. He holds that students, though tech-savvy, are lacking interpersonal communication skills they need to be successful and is recommending placing more emphasis on human interaction. At the school board’s direction, he expects to bring a draft policy to the board early next year. The hope is to implement the new policy for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Michelle Price, superintendent of the North Central Educational Service District, said all school districts currently have an electronic device policy in place and individual classroom teachers might have additional rules as part of their classroom management or instructional practice.
  • Wenatchee’s WestSide High School takes a common-sense approach, said Principal Kory Kalahar. Phones are allowed in the classroom, but must be put away unless students have permission from the teacher.
  • The Entiat School District’s policy calls for students to turn off all electronic devices during school, except during lunch. The devices include phones, iPods, radios, CD/MP3 players and hand-held computer games. Confiscated devices can be picked up by parents, Superintendent Miles Caples said. All Entiat high school and middle school students have access to Chromebooks, he said. “There is no need for phones to be used to access the internet,” he said. “Many of our teachers have phone caddies on their front wall and students slip their phones into these.”
  • In Chelan, phone use is permitted by middle school students when they’re not in class. The same holds true for the high school, though students can request teacher permission to use their phones. The district’s 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative has “drastically” reduced those requests, said Superintendent Barry DePaoli. The district’s policy also calls for student-owned devices to be in silent mode while on campus and while riding the bus.
  • Manson middle/high school teachers individually decide how much student phone access and use is allowed, said Superintendent Matt Charlton. Devices are taken away and parents are notified when a student doesn’t meet a teacher’s expectation. “In general we have taken the stance of trying to educate and model responsible phone use for students while recognizing the value they have as learning and communication tools. Today’s smart devices have more computing power than all of NASA’s computers did when we put a man on the moon,” he said. “Partnering with parents to teach them to use these powerful devices with moderation and good judgment is our joint responsibility.”

Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151

mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com