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Frazier School District studies food, cell phone issues

| Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 7:53 a.m.

Frazier School District students will be greeted this school year with new rules about cell phone use and lunches.

Just what those rules are remains to be seen, as the school board on Thursday approved the student handbook for the 2013-2014 year – but didn't specify the changes.

High school Principal Chris Sefcheck discussed the cell phone policy, which allows students to use personal smartphones, at the discretion of teachers, for instructional purposes.

When not being used in class, cell phone use will not be permitted, and students will face disciplinary action if caught using them.

He said many teachers are incorporating smartphones into their classrooms.

Directors Deborah Vargo Alekson and Stacey Erdely raised concerns about inappropriate use of phones.

Vargo Alekson said the board discussed the concerns at a previous meeting, but the new rules weren't included in the revised student handbook.

Superintendent Dr. David Blozovich said the cell phone policy has to be “all or nothing.”

Vargo Alekson said the policy should be the same for the entire district. Middle school students now must keep their cell phones in their lockers.

Kelly Muic, director of educational programs and grants, suggested officials consider educating the students at a young age about positive and safe cell phone use.

Solicitor John M. Purcell said many districts are now adopting policies for student cell phone use because more teachers are using the devices.

“They're trying to promote respectful use of cell phones and trying to alleviate kids sneaking around with them,” Purcell said. “Why limit the educational value of them ? … Don't punish everyone when you don't trust just a few.”

Vargo Alekson agreed that the phones have educational value, but she wants to establish boundaries.

The board also discussed proposed changes to the food policy.

Sefcheck said there has been an ongoing problem of students meeting parents in the parking lot to receive food or parents dropping off lunches in the school office.

He said that in some instances businesses have delivered food to the school.

Erdely opposed a ban on parents dropping off lunches.

“This is school, not a prison,” Erdely said. “How do you stop a parent from bringing (students') lunch to school when they forgot it?”

Sefcheck said some students call home to have food delivered if they don't like what's on the cafeteria menu.

He said that on average, three to four packed lunches are dropped off daily at the high school.

A student who doesn't bring lunch or has no money to purchase one in the cafeteria can receive a piece of fruit and either a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich.

Director John Sterdis said students should “take some responsibility.”

“If they have to eat a cheese sandwich, they won't forget their lunch,” Sterdis said.

Vargo Alekson asked whether officials should stop allowing all drop-offs, including sports equipment, homework, projects and gym clothes.

“Is this about disruptions or cafeteria revenue being down?” Vargo Alekson asked.

“I think we're being petty about things,” Erdely said. “We're talking about three to four lunches a day (being dropped off.)”

The board agreed to vote on a student handbook that will include “appropriate changes” to the cell phone and food policies.

No other details were provided.

It passed 4-2, with Vargo Alekson and Erdely voting against it.

Sterdis and directors Vicki Olexa, David Simmons and Brian Secrest approved it.

Directors Lisa Strickler and John Strickler left the meeting early, while Director Thomas Shetterly was absent. After the meeting, Blozovich said he would meet with other administrators Monday to revise the handbook.

The board also approved the following handbook changes:

• Added in-school-suspension to disciplinary actions.

• School hours for students at both Perry and Central Area elementary schools will change. The start time for students was moved to 9 a.m. Dismissal for student walkers is 3:30 p.m., and 3:45 p.m. for all other students. Pre-kindergarten program hours will not change.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at swolford@tribweb.com.

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