School weighs phone policy

GREENFIELD — A crackdown on student cellphone use might be the trade-off for new lap-tops for Greenfield-Central High School students next school year.

Greenfield-Central students won’t be able to use their cellphones during class starting next school year under a proposed student policy change before the school board.

The change would revert cellphone policy back to its stricter form, when phones were allowed only during passing periods or lunch. Back in 2012, the school board eased its policy on mobile devices, saying students could use them during class at the teachers’ discretion. It was the cornerstone of the school’s “Bring your own device” policy, which sought to utilize students’ devices for educational purposes.

But since each student will be issued a MacBook Air starting next school year, administrators said now there’s no need to use a cellphone during class.

Susie Coleman, Greenfield-Central assistant principal, proposed the change at Monday’s board meeting, during which dozens of student handbook changes were discussed for all grade levels. A first reading was approved; final approval is slated for next month’s agenda.

Coleman said with the exception of social media sites like Facebook, all of the websites students would have accessed under the old policy can be found on their laptops.

The high school will no longer have public Wi-Fi starting next school year, making it more difficult for students to use free data from the school. Greg Thompson, director of technology for the corporation, said that’s not to punish students; it’s because the school’s technology infrastructure won’t allow for it.

“During the day, I can’t support the kids’ devices and the laptops,” Thompson said.

The change comes as the school is about to roll out its one-to-one computer program to all high school students this fall. Reaction from students this week was mixed.

Junior Abby Fralich said she likes the idea of MacBooks but wishes she could also have her phone in school. Besides, administrators are unrealistic if they think kids won’t sneak them, she said.

“I had it with me in class before, when we weren’t allowed to have them, and I’ll probably do it again,” she said.

Sophomore Landon Ridolfo said he feels safer having a phone with him. Sophomore Sarah Jackley said she doesn’t see why students can’t have their phones, as long as they are respectful of teachers.

“But I can see the teachers’ standpoint,” she added. “People shouldn’t be using it when they are supposed to be listening.”

Local high schools have been wrestling the past several years on what to do about student cellphone policy as schools transition to providing laptops to students. Eastern Hancock and New Palestine high schools already provide laptops to students.

At New Palestine High School, students also are allowed to use phones through-out the day, including during class for educational purposes; at Eastern, phones are allowed only during passing periods and lunch.

Mt. Vernon High School has a strict no-phone policy and also doesn’t have laptops for students. While a one-to-one computer program is on the horizon with the hiring of a new school superintendent, high school administrators have said it’s important to keep phones away from the classroom to keep students safe and cut down on bullying.

Staff writer Caitlin VanOverberghe contributed to this report.

New policies on the horizon

Student cellphone policy wasn’t the only handbook change discussed at Monday’s Greenfield-Central school board meeting. Here’s a glance at other proposed changes for the 2015-2016 school year (all changes are pending final approval by the school board next month):

Dress code: Leggings will be allowed in the 2015-2016 school year.

Food from home: Soft drinks and candy will be discouraged from being sent as a packed lunch for elementary students. While parents can occasionally bring lunch to their child, fast food, pizza and soft drinks will be discouraged.

Cigarettes: Electronic smoking devices or look-a-likes will be prohibited at the junior high (They are already prohibited at the high school)