Proposed pilot would test cell phone use by IRSD high school students

 

DAGSBORO – A test of a different sort may loom on the horizon for high school students in the Indian River School District.

The district’s board of education on Sept. 25 approved first reading of a policy change that would allow high school students to use cell phones before school, during transitions, at lunch, and in classrooms with teacher permission for instructional purposes only.

Dr. Bradley Layfield

“It is going to be difficult but we do want to see where there can be pitfalls, where there could be positives both from an instructional standpoint and in unassigned times,” said Sussex Central High school Dr. Bradley Layfield.

The proposed policy change would impact only the two high schools: Sussex Central and Indian River.

A second reading at a future board of education meeting is needed before it becomes policy.

If approved by the board, it would be rolled out in the spring. IRSD’s draft proposal is modified from a cellular phone/electronic device policy of an update school district.

This initiative is part of a pilot.

“Our plan is to ask the board to allow for a pilot held at both of the high schools,” said Dr. Layfield, adding that former IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting and current superintendent Mark Steele received feedback from student focus groups from both high schools. “The only way we are going to find out where the pitfalls may be is to gather some data.”

“But before we ever go forward in adopting any type of policy as a district we did want to gather some data from some willing parties,” added Dr. Layfield. “Sussex Central is willing, and I know in the transition leadership at Indian River, Mr. (Mike) Williams (the new IRHS principal) has also recently been on board in saying how it can look in Sussex Central may be somewhat different specifically from how it looks at Indian River, and I respect that leader to leader in different buildings. But ultimately our purpose is to say if we are going to move in the direction of some sort of acceptable use we want to see how it is going to work in a smaller setting first, hopefully where the students are more responsible and somewhat more mature.”

School board member Leolga Wright asked if use allowed during “transition” means going from class to class?”

“That is what we are proposing. It would be between classes, at lunch time, breakfast, before school lunch, during school and only in a classroom under the directive of the teacher when it’s time to utilize it for an instructional purpose,” Dr. Layfield said.

Focus is on instruction, with particular emphasis on ELL students.

“We have over 230 English Language Learner (ELL) students,” said Dr. Layfield. “Many of them own smartphones, and Google Translates (app) is something that for many of our recent students who have recently entered in the country it is a vital tool that is used day in, day out for an educational purpose in an English Language Learner classroom. Obviously, well at least I believe it to be obvious on its face, that could be a very important instructional tool.”

Dr. Layfield added, “If approved we could roll something out for the second semester after we have time to educate students on the parameters of any type of policy for acceptable use of personal devices and then gather data the second semester, discipline data to see if any numbers go up, down or otherwise.”

Qualitative data from teachers in terms of whether this a benefit in the classroom or more of a distraction would be determined.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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