District 56 passes new cell phone policy for K-8 without objection

District 56 passes new cell phone policy for K-8 without objection

Tech Highlights:

  • The board is required to have two readings for new policies or policy changes; however, the board has the option of waiving first reading, which it often does. That expedites the process, since the board meets monthly. Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields recommended the change. He has said he is in favor of almost anything that will enhance discipline at the middle school level. He said phones are just too much of a distraction during the school days.

  • The District 56 Board of Trustees has authorised a policy change that will welcome middle school students next year with the demand that they keep cell phones silent and out of sight after one reading and no public comment. The ban also applies to pupils in primary school who opt to have cell phones. For high school pupils, the policy remains unchanged.

Principals can approve policy waivers for documented health cases. Teachers can allow phones in classrooms if they are tied to a standards-based lesson plan. The policy change removes a long list of electronic devices and simply uses the words “cell phones” — it is aligned with state law governing phones in schools and discipline for violations. Elementary and middle school students can use their phones before and after school; high school students also have prescribed times during the day when they can use phones.

Also at its April 25 meeting, the board heard a “Dive Into Learning” presentation from Clinton Elementary School, and heard about reading interventionists’ work at the school. The interventionists meet with students in small groups or one-to-one when students are identified with reading deficiencies. Dr. Brenda Schrantz, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the intervention is proven to assist students get to or return to grade-level reading.

Dr. David Pitts, assistant superintendent for operations, in introducing the new policy, said it basically expands the prohibition of phones from elementary up through middle school. Students are not allowed to use phones to video record each other, or teachers and administrators during the school day, without a teacher’s or administrator’s waiver. The new policy was adopted on an unanimous “yes” vote.

“Covid showed us why these positions are important,” said Schrantz. She added that the administration may ask the board for more local money to promote reading and math, and perhaps behavior, interventions; the reading program now is supported by Covid-relief money since students are suspected to have lost skills when schools were closed or went to virtual learning during the 2 years of COVID-19.

Parents are invited to monthly meetings with the interventionists. They may not know what the problem is, Schrantz said, “They just know their child needs help.” The two interventionists assigned to Clinton Elementary work with about 35 students each per day; similar intervention is happening at Eastside Elementary and Joanna Woodson Elementary, as well. They all meet regularly with classroom teachers to map out strategies, the board was told.

Schrantz also guided the board through a discussion of a state requirement to submit updated strategic plans for the district as a whole, and the individual schools. The board approved making the submissions, once up to date testing data is available. The district has seen a decrease in the percentage of young students not meeting Kindergarten readiness, and now stands 5% better than the state average for this key indicator, Schrantz said.

“Our students are working hard,” she said, “and we appreciate their efforts.” She said 2nd grade appears to be where students right now are slipping – they were 5K students when Covid disrupted their normal education patterns. “We have got to reach these students early,” O’Shields emphasized. The board also agreed to hiring: 2 teachers on induction contracts, 2 on annual contracts and 2 on continuing contracts. The board was updated on last Sunday’s student-readers at the Greenville Drive baseball game, where students and families walked the playing field for recognition of meeting their reading goals.

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