In response to teachers’ concerns about students using cellphones in school, the Bridgehampton School Board is contemplating a policy to regulate when, where and how often students can use their phones during school hours.
School Board member Jeffrey Mansfield brought the issue up to the board and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lois Favre at a meeting on Wednesday, August 27. He explained that several teachers have pointed out the distractions that phones have caused in class, as many students appear to be playing games on them during lessons. Many younger students also have been seen spending outdoor recess time on their phones instead of playing with classmates, he said.
The district currently does not have a policy in place, although Dr. Favre noted that there was a portion of the student handbook stating that cellphones need to be set aside during class. The superintendent said she will ensure that an official policy is created so that guidelines are made clear to both students and teachers.
“We have to keep the focus on teaching and learning in school, and not on cellphone use,” Dr. Favre said. She added, however, that the district wants to be lenient, at least with high school students: “Because technology is such a big part of our students’ lives, we decided as a faculty to allow our older students to use [them] for a calendar, like we do as adults.”
Board members agreed that the point of the policy would not be to discourage the use of cellphones altogether, but rather have them learn how to appropriately use the devices while at school. The board did say, however, that it was not necessary for students in prekindergarten through the eighth grade to use their phones during the school day, so use for those students would be very limited.
Board Vice President Lillian Tyree-Johnson did note that the district understands that many parents may feel comfortable with their children having phones with them at school in case of an emergency, but she added that Bridgehampton is a small enough school that staff members can relay any messages if something goes wrong.
“Shutting it down completely is not going to make them better users,” Dr. Favre said. “You want the older ones to use it responsibly. I’d rather not say [no cellphones].”
Spanish classes may be in the future for elementary students at the Bridgehampton School. The School Board broached the possibility of reviving an old program in which two foreign language instructors—one Spanish, one French—used their off periods to give children lessons with no extra pay. However, once the teachers’ union found out, the instructors were asked to discontinue their classes.
Mr. Mansfield suggested implementing at least a Spanish class for younger students that would involve paying the instructor a stipend for the extra work. “We have a big Spanish-speaking population and community,” he said. “Why not take advantage of that and have the kids learn Spanish?”
“The teachers were all for it. They want the kids to learn,” board member Doug DeGroot added. “It is a great idea, and it should happen when they’re really young.”
While Dr. Favre also liked the idea, she said the district would first have to see how and if other nearby districts have implemented a similar program, and to decide how much money from the budget would be needed to operate it. Dr. Favre said such a study could take up to six months.
“We can make it happen, absolutely,” she said.
According to Mr. Mansfield, a parent recently approached him about snack selections in the school cafeteria. The parent does not like the fact that Doritos tortilla chips are available for students to purchase, he explained. He suggested that the board compile a list of unhealthy snacks sold in the cafeteria and decide whether or not they should be available to students.
“Do we really need to have snacks like chips in our cafeteria with no nutritional value?” Mr. Mansfield asked Monday night. “Do we need to be selling Doritos to our kids?”
Board members agreed that cookies are also a questionable item to have available to students. Mr. DeGroot, however, noted that the district should not be too strict with its food options, as it may lead students to not want to buy breakfast, lunch or snacks at school.
Dr. Favre offered the idea of at least limiting options to younger students until they are able to make more educated and conscious decisions about what they buy from the cafeteria. She said the board would make a suggestion to the district’s wellness committee.
“We need to find a list of healthy alternatives,” she said.