Thursday, July 25, 2024

2 Brunswick County schools chosen for phone-free pilot

A new pilot program to lock up student cellphones during school days will begin at two schools in Brunswick County next school year. (Port City Daily/File)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — After initiating a program to make school campuses phone-free, Brunswick County has announced two schools to endure a trial run before adding in more campuses.

Cedar Grove Middle School and Town Creek Middle School have been chosen, according to Superintendent Dale Cole, who informed the school board Tuesday. Brunswick County Schools revealed the news on its social media.

According to the post, Cole chose the schools due to similar student demographics and varied representation across the county.

“Data from student discipline referrals pertaining to cell phones was also a factor in the selection of the two middle schools,” he explained.

Cole noted the goal is to foster more focus and productivity for students in their learning environment.

“We believe that this pilot program will aid us in minimizing distractions, promoting social interaction, and encouraging responsible device use,” Cole wrote in the post.

Guidelines regarding the program will be provided to teachers, staff, students and parents.

The school board chose last month to go with Yondr pouches, which lock away student cellphones during the school day with magnetic closures. The kids will be able to unlock the pouches — carried with them to class — at the end of each day.

Those with medical needs who must access their phones will be provided velcro pouches.

The district did a survey to gauge student use in classrooms last fall, with nearly 400 teachers and additional administration in middle and high schools petitioned. Administrators were asked about the average amount of instructional time teachers lose per class period due to enforcing policies on student cell phone use, a third said anywhere from 5 and 10 minutes, with 13% indicating 15 minutes. 70% from the survey thought it increased negative impacts on student learning and behavior.

Some parents have spoken against the move, citing safety concerns, particularly in that it will cut off communication when needed. Michelle Westenbroek, a parent and alumna of Brunswick County Schools, says in the case of an emergency, she fears her children would be unable to call for help.

“Is it worth the gamble with our kids’ lives if not having access to their phones could save their life or other’s in an emergency?” she told Port City Daily last month. “I don’t think so.” 

The pilot program will begin during the first semester of the 2024-2025 school year. If successful, more schools will be rolled into the program by the second semester.

Catch up on Port City Daily’s coverage of the new program below:

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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