New Cell Phone Policy at Upper School

Atlantis Upper School implements Yondr to address cell phone usage during the school day

“Students were constantly trying to go online during class. It was kids on Snapchat, kids on TikTok, kids texting each other. It was a big-time distraction,” said high school environmental science teacher David Roache.

To combat the growing problem of cell phones in school, Atlantis instituted a new policy, making the Upper School a student phone-free space to improve teaching and learning. Now, each morning when students enter the building they place their cell phones, earbuds, and smart watches in a small silver pouch.  Students magnetically seal their pouch and keep it with them throughout the day. When leaving school, students tap the pouch on a base to unlock it and retrieve their phone.

The system was created by a company called Yondr for the entertainment industry, but it has now been implemented in more than 2,000 schools in 16 countries.

“We believe that phones serve an important purpose,” said district leader Gabriela Birmingham. “We have also found that learning and social behavior improve dramatically when students are fully engaged with their teachers and classmates.”

Atlantis is one of a growing number of schools in Massachusetts to implement Yondr, as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education encourages schools to try out new tactics to restrict or ban cell phone use during the school day.

Teachers immediately noticed a difference in their classrooms.

“It used to be all about the phone in class,” said 11th and 12th grade history teacher Kerri Schoonover. “I was constantly telling students, ‘Put your phone down’ and ‘Take that earbud out of your ear.’ I lost a lot of instruction time redirecting students and having to repeat directions. Now, I’m seeing a level of engagement I haven’t seen in the past few years.”

“It has been a wonderful change,” said Business Academy instructor Amy Corriveau. “Students are much more focused. Students who never answered questions before are now participating in class.”

Corriveau hopes to see an improvement in test scores as well. Sophomore Jaccob Aponte says he’s already doing better at school. “It actually has improved my grades already compared to last year.  It’s kept me more focused in the classroom and on what the teacher is saying.”

Under a previous cell phone policy, seventh and eighth-grade students were supposed to turn in their cell phones at the start of the school day, but seventh-grade social studies teacher Andrew Hartman says the policy had lost its effectiveness. “Last year we had some students hiding their phones in their sweatshirts or pockets. They would text their friends to arrange meetups in the bathroom. I didn’t see the phones, but I did notice which students were missing long periods of class every day.”

Students are quick to say they were against the new policy at first, but many now see it as a positive change.

“I’ve seen a lot more communication among students,” said senior Jada Braga. “I feel like kids I’ve been in class with for years, I know better now and have a greater bond with them that is more than just social media. We’re forced to talk to each other, and I know the kids a lot better in my classes now.”

“Because the policy was applied equally to everyone, I think students fairly quickly realized, ‘hey, we’re all in this together,’” said Roache.

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