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Phones can't be out during class time at Thomas Jefferson High School

| Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, 9:15 a.m.

Those texts and social media posts can wait.

Cellphones now need to be put away during class time at Thomas Jefferson High School.

District leaders say phones have become a distraction during instructional time and with every student at the high school now having their own take-home Chromebook starting in 2018-19, there’s no need to have phones out during class.

“We’re going to be very clear with students and teachers from day one,” new Thomas Jefferson High School Principal Pete Murphy told board members on Aug. 21, before they adopted the new high school handbook outlining rules and expectations for students for 2018-19.

“There’s no need to use the phone during class time unless the teacher has a reason,” Murphy said.

“In my experience, I see the phone as a tremendous distraction,” he added. “Kids become very tied to it.”

The district purchased numbered black and gold calculator holders that will hang on the door of every classroom at Thomas Jefferson High School to serve as a phone docking station when students enter the room.

Students will be allowed to use their phones in the hallways, cafeteria and during study halls. In the classroom, they can use their Chromebooks, leaders said.

If mom or dad needs to get a hold of their child during class time, they can call the office, Ghilani said. Or, they can wait between period when students will have their phones.

“We want to standardize the process,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.

Murphy said he has talked with teachers about the plans, and they’re excited.

He said if he surveyed teachers about the biggest problem they faced in classrooms last year, they “overwhelming would say cellphone use.”

“Students can do many things on there. A lot of them are good. Some of them are not,” Murphy said.

Chromebooks all have the same apps and software needed for classroom learning, so there really isn’t a need for students to use their phones during time they should be learning, Ghilani said.

If a teacher sees the need for cell phone use, it will be allowed. For instance, they might want students to use the timer function on their phones during a lab period.

“But, as a norm, across the board, we are going to set that expectation that kids are not going to be using electronic devices, other than the Chromebook during instructional time,” Murphy said.

Ghilani said the new rule also will help teach students cellphone etiquette.

“By making them put their devices aside at times and interact with one another and with their teacher, hopefully we’re teaching them some good digital and personal etiquette that will serve them well as adults,” he said.

In the past, phone use in the classroom was “inconsistent,” Ghilani said.

“It was kind of teacher discretion, and it was kind of all over the place,” he said.

Students already are required to put their phones in their lockers at Pleasant Hills Middle School.

As they adapt to changing technology, Murphy said, district leaders will learn as they go, especially with the implementation of the 1:1 Chromebook initiative this year at the high school

“It’s a learning process,” Murphy said. “I look forward to seeing how our teachers use (the Chromebooks) for good.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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