(TNS) — BELLINGHAM — High school students will be able to use their cellphones and other electronic devices in between classes when the new school year begins.

Previously, electronic devices were confiscated if students used them in the hallways or in class.

The School Committee spoke about the new rules Tuesday evening, during an overall review of the policies outlined in the student handbooks for various schools. Those changes include the expansion in the use of Chromebooks in the classroom.

During the meetings, Bellingham High School Principal Lucas Giguere discussed the new electronic device rules for the coming year. He said a zero-tolerance policy -- especially in regard to cell phones -- no longer made sense.

"What we're trying to do is preserve academic time," he said. "When a student is in class, their focus should be on the teacher."

"Students are not to have cell phones out during class without a teacher's permission."

Giguere said, though, that the new policy would allow phone use in the transition time between classes and during lunch.

"We tried to really assess our core values, and what's important," he said. "This isn't acquiescence... I think it's about teaching kids when to appropriately use (the devices)."

Assistant Principal Thomas Forbes said many students took out their phones in the hallway anyway, given the fact that the sheer number of students moving from class to class meant teachers couldn't catch everyone.

School Committee Chairman Michael Reed said that though the policy was changed, it could change back. A student's privilege to use the devices could be taken away if abused, and that a larger-scale re-evaluation could take place if there are many problems, district officials said,

The committee also discussed policy changes spurred by a new 1:1 technology initiative involving Google Chromebooks for seventh graders.

"We're moving the right way, taking one step at a time," Reed said. "There was a very successful pilot last year."

Superintendent Peter Marano said the Chromebooks had been delivered, and that some staff already received training.

"There will be another training (session) on August 23," he said. "It's exciting; teachers had 100 percent attendance (at the previous training event)."

Mike Gleason can be reached at 508-634-7546 or mgleason@wickedlocal.com. For news throughout the day, follow him on Twitter @MGleason_MDN.


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