‘Kids are easily distracted’: Wakefield middle school implementing new cell phone policy this fall

WAKEFIELD, Mass — Andrea Tortolano was happy to learn Wakefield Public Schools is working to implement the YONDR system in its middle school this fall.

Her kids are in third grade and they’re already asking for cell phones of their own.

“They want it but we’re not there yet, so we say at this point until you are further along there’s no way you’re getting a cell phone and in school, it’s definitely not appropriate,” Tortolano said.

Starting in November, students at the Galvin Middle School will be required to secure their phones in a personally assigned YONDR bag when they get to school.

They can keep the bag on them, or store it in their locker, until the end of the school day.

Wakefield is joining dozens of schools across the state using the pouches including Chicopee High School and the Elliot K-8 School in Boston.

“It’s actually a good policy because the kids are easily distracted by cell phones, watches, all sorts of stuff. My kids have watches but we have them set on “school time” so that they’re locked out and not able to use any of the apps,” said Tortolano.

In an email to Boston 25 News, Superintendent Doug Lyons says implementing the program at the middle school seems like the best match for the district right now. A message to families shared with Boston 25 says the school has seen a dramatic uptick in bullying and disengagement.

“Students at the middle level are learning to manage relationships along with the complex impacts of social media and cell phone use,” Lyons wrote.

Wakefield received a grant from the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as part of a federal program working to address cell phone use among students in school.

“Based on growing evidence of the negative impacts on academic, social-emotional and mental health outcomes....this grant program is to assist districts in mitigating and/or reducing negative factors through age-appropriate, effective and innovative approaches.”

”The downside is the scary part in society at this point with what’s going on with school shootings and things like that makes it very difficult,” Andrea Tortolano. “So, them maybe not having access to it for that reason is the hesitation I would have.“

Wakefield schools say they believe the risk is worth the potential benefits from the program and state education officials are encouraging districts to continue to try programs like YONDR.

An information session will be held for parents on October 10.

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