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Chicopee Public Schools Stand by Cell Phone Ban, Storage

Finding that students had become exceptionally reliant on cell phones while locked down during COVID-19, a Massachusetts school district now requires them to store phones in magnetically sealed pouches during the day.

phone pouch
Yondr phone pouches. Central High School students must lock their cell phones inside Yondr pouches at the beginning of each school day.
Tristan Smith/TNS
(TNS) — The Chicopee School Committee will stick with an experiment that mostly bans cell phone use in schools by students.

A new policy this month calls for students at Chicopee High, Comprehensive High and Chicopee Academy to turn off and lock their cell phones in a school-provided magnetic pouch at the start of the day. Teachers or administrators unlock the pouches at dismissal.

The decision comes about 18 months after Chicopee High School Principal Carol Kruser begged the School Committee to temporarily suspend a hard-won policy, developed in 2013, that allowed students limited access to their cell phones during the school day.

Kruser, now an assistant superintendent, said students became exceptionally reliant on their cell phones while locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic and returned to in-person learning more addicted to electronics than ever.

She proposed trying a program through a California company called Yondr, which supplies magnetically sealed pouches. Students keep their phones but cannot use them unless a teacher unlocks the pouches.

Chicopee was the first school in the region to try the program. After Kruser reported a few months later that students were more focused and their grades were better, other schools in the area jumped on board including Chicopee Comprehensive High and at least three in Springfield.

The School Committee adopted the new policy in a 9-1 vote last week. Member Timothy Wagner voted against it.

“I’ll be voting no because I want that data before making the decision,” he said.

A survey of Chicopee High School staff found that teachers were overwhelming in favor of continued use of the pouches. But there was no data from Comprehensive High educators and they had no information from students.

“They are a very big stakeholder and we haven’t consulted them,” he said.


The Student Advisory Council, which has members from all three secondary schools, had planned to do a survey but was not able to finish it, he said.

The School Committee changed its no cell phone policy in 2013 after the Student Advisory Council petitioned them with data from schools in nearby communities that allowed teens to use their phones at lunch and in areas designated by administrators. Teachers also found educational uses for them in the classroom.

The School Committee kept a portion of the policy that allows students to use phones in a classroom directed by an educator for educational purposes “that are closely aligned with the course content.”

Wagner said he doesn’t see that being used much, if at all, since all students have Chromebooks.

The policy allows students to use cell phones at after-school sports and activities with permission of the coach, teacher or advisor.

The policy also allows an exception through a written agreement. This is typically done in cases where a student uses their phone to track a medical condition, such as diabetes, or is facing an emergency situation where they must be in immediate contact with a family member.

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