Hays Middle School administrators think they have the combination to keeping students more focused on schooling in the 2017-18 school year.
It will start with a new policy in the student handbook for cellphones and electronic devices being locked away during school hours in the students’ lockers.
At Monday’s Hays USD 489 Board of Education meeting at Rockwell Administration Center, board members heard requests for changes in student handbooks.
The biggest change will be for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at HMS. The district will provide locks for each locker, and students will not be allowed to have their cellphones between the time frame of 8:09 a.m. to 3:04 p.m. in class.
Instead, the phones will need to be locked away safely in students’ lockers.
HMS Principal Craig Pallister said the school has looked at other districts and policies dealing with cellphones.
“The main thing is keeping phones from interrupting class periods,” he said.
He said some phones staff have found and are awaiting students to pick them up at a secretary’s desk have received 20 to 40 SnapChat messages.
“It’s not a matter of having phones, but putting them in their lockers and locking them,” said USD 489 Superintendent John Thissen.
Students will be able to access their cellphones during breaks between classes at their lockers.
The addition of the locks provided by the district will help ensure the safety of the pricey devices, Pallister said, and keep the focus on education and away from social media during the school day.
“We’re not saying just go put them in your locker,” he said. “We have a plan in place to put them in secure location.”
If a student is caught with a phone during class, a first violation will be for the student to pick up the phone at the end of the school day from the office.
A second violation will require a parent to pick up the phone between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and it will not be returned to the student.
A third violation will require parents to pick up the phone and sign a waiver that the student loses the right to have a cellphone at school for the remainder of the school year. If caught after a third violation, students will be assigned to in-school suspension for one day for each continuing violation.
Pallister said the staff will work with students early in the year to make sure they aren’t penalized if they have trouble with the combination of the locks.
“We know we’ll have to work with kids to get to class on time … that don’t like to work with combinations,” he said.
The locks also will help with securing iPads the students are given at the start of the school year.
The board possibly will vote on the handbook changes at its next meeting, June 26.