Schools find solutions to cell phone distraction in the classroom

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio – For so many of us, our devices can be a major distraction.

And for students who are supposed to focus on learning in class — well, the appeal is often overwhelming, like at T-Squared Honors Academy in Warrensville Heights.

The return from last year’s COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging, forcing principals to break down and analyze their discipline data.

“It was really high and we had to come up with some sort of solution. We said let’s look at the root causes – what’s causing these problems and what we can actually change,” explained Jason Petz, Dean of Studies.

It turned out that the bulk of the problems – 44% to be exact – were either directly or indirectly related to mobile phones.

Students scrolled social media, played games, and were late for class creating TikToks in the halls.

The solution they came up with is to use bags called Yondr to enclose students’ cellphones from the moment they enter the school until the moment they are dismissed at the end of the day.

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Bridgette Pacholka

You may have seen the Yondr bags at concerts and comedy shows for years.

Teachers loved the bags, and it’s no surprise that students initially resisted there.

“I come, put my phone in my pocket every day and I understand how it helps because it has helped the whole school. Fewer arguments, fewer distractions,” said Shahid Wheeler, senior at T-Squared.

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Bridgette Pacholka

Sophomore Jaydah Anderson agreed, adding, “I see that I’m getting help, my grades are better and I can get more work done.”

Students can personalize their pouches and carry them with them at all times.

T-Squared was initially concerned that enrollments could fall with the new policy since they are a charter school, but have actually found that more parents are sending their children because from that.

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Bridgette Pacholka

“They work together in groups, while last year maybe one kid did the work and the rest played on their phone,” Petz said.

Over at Mary Church Terrell, an elementary through 8th grade public school in Cleveland, this is the second year of Yondr bags.

“It took a layer of distraction and stress away from some kids, so it’s great to see,” said principal Angie Boie.

Boie said the transition to the bags was surprisingly smooth for the students, and most importantly, it was refreshing to see kids just being kids again — at lunch, in the hallways, at recess.

“Interact, have fun, talk,” she said. “On recess, they play football, basketball and are just kids.”

Yondr is used in 25 schools across Ohio – six of them in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and 1,200 schools across the country.

In a survey of 900 schools across the country, 74% reported improvements in student behavior and 65% reported improvements in academic performance.

In an emergency, educators we spoke to said teachers have easily accessible phones in their classrooms and students can go to the front office at any time to contact their parents.

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