Whitcomb students, staff ‘pouch’ their cell phones


Whitcomb students, staff ‘pouch’ their cell phones
Last month, Whitcomb Middle School initiated a new program – distributing Yondr phone pouches to students and staff. From left: the pouch used by staff (with Velcro fasteners); the pouch used by students (with a magnetic lock); and a hand-held magnetic lock used by staff to lock and unlock the students’ pouches. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

MARLBOROUGH – For students and staff at Whitcomb Middle School, it’s time to “pouch their phones.”

Concerned about how cell phones can disrupt classes, from ringtones to videotaping, the middle school initiated a new policy in mid-October. Instead of using phone lockers in certain parts of the school, students and staff have been given Yondr phone pouches. Students were given pouches with magnetic locks, while staff members were given pouches with Velcro fasteners.

“It’s going well so far,” said Principal Christine Dolan. “It’s taken a little bit for us to work out the procedures.”

After powering down their phones and ear buds, students place them in their Yondr pouches, which are then locked by staff members. These pouches remain with students during the school day; during this time students are unable to access their phones which means no calls, emails or texts. When students are dismissed for the day, staff members unlock the pouches.

“The mornings can be a challenge with all the kids lining up, but the kids are getting used to it,” Dolan said.

According to the policy posted by the school, “Cell phones pose a substantial disruption to the learning of all students and are not needed in the educational environment for success. All students have Chromebooks to access online materials and are provided with loaners as needed.”

The policy includes guidelines on students arriving to school late; and in case the pouches are lost or damaged.

During the School Committee meeting on Oct. 24, Superintendent Mary Murphy showed a Yondr pouch and how the top is locked and unlocked.

She said the idea for Yondr may have come from comedian/actor Chris Rock, who got annoyed when cell phones would ring during his standup performances.

School Committee members discussed the issue of cell phone use in the classroom, and how they approved of the new policy.

“It’s such a huge issue. I love this idea as a teacher,” said Elton Thomas, Marlborough Educators Association president.

While she said some students are not thrilled with the new policy, Risha Khandera, Marlborough High School student rep to the School Committee, said, “I would prefer this to the ‘phone jail’ in front of the classroom.”

Dolan said that some students have decorated their pouches, using fabric paint.

Staff members are also required to “pouch” their phones during the school day.

Whitcomb received funding for the pouches through a grant written by the superintendent’s office from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Dolan thanked Yondr for all the support provided, including a visit during Parent Night and helping out during the launch.

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