HOPEWELL, Va. -- Hopewell City Schools will soon require its middle and high schools to enforce a new phone policy, limiting students’ access to their cell phones throughout the school day.
The school district is partnering with Yondr this upcoming school year to provide magnetized pouches to all students.
Phones will be placed inside the pouches at the beginning of the school day and they can only be unlocked by special magnets placed at the entrances of school buildings at the end of the day.
Deputy Superintendent Jay McClain said the district is doing this in an effort to limit distractions in the classroom. McClain also believes that this new system will keep students safe.
“We have escalated safety concerns, and in many ways, while the phone is seen in one respect as a way to kind of have a safety line out, they’re at the same time, possibly even more, creating a safety hazard itself,” McClain said. “We have had students where the phones have been used to arrange fights during the day, record things and they’re done for the purpose of recording.”
Samantha Collins, who grew up in Hopewell, is concerned about how this will impact her son Bryan. He goes to Carter G. Woodson Middle school and is severely allergic to bees.
“He has five minutes to get his EpiPen, which is locked in the nurse’s office at the beginning of the school building,” Collins said. “His classes are at the back of the school building and they do not allow cell phones now, so he has no way to reach for help.”
Collins said she’s worried the new phone policy could be a matter of life or death.
“This came out of left field, for children with disabilities, for children with something that can kill them, where was the survey?” she asked. “Where was the input from the parent?”
McClain said the policy has been in the works since December. The school board unanimously voted in favor of the policy in May.
The pouches are required for all students and will cost $15 per pouch. Collins tried reaching out to the school to try and find a way to exempt her son when she first heard the news.
“It’s a health issue, no one has gotten back in touch with me,” Collins said.
McClain said the policy is still in the works and exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
“These are protocols that we’re establishing on a student-by-student basis, as what we do with other things in school where we need to make exceptions to meet the needs, medical or any other kind of need for a student,” McClain said.
McClain said they’re trying to work alongside parents to make the policy change go as smoothly as possible.
“Please give this a chance,” McClain said. “And we want to listen to parents and what their concerns are and we will look at those kinds of situations that are very unique and figure out a way to help each other.”
The policy is expected to be fully implemented by the beginning of the school year, starting July 25. McClain said there will be town hall opportunities in the near future for parents to voice their concerns.