Krista Corner Havre Daily News email@example.com
The use of cell phones, pagers, electronic signaling and audio playback devices is no longer allowed during regular school hours at Havre Public Schools. During the regular Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, board members unanimously approved the addition of new District Policy 3630 to the student handbook. The new policy states that possession of all electronic media on school grounds would be permitted so long as usage would be limited to before and after school. Students in grades nine through 12, however, will be permitted to use the devices during their lunch hour. Trustee Todd Hanson asked how the policy would be enforced. "Will it be consistent throughout the district, or will it vary by gradelevel?" He asked. Superintendent Dennis Parman said the policy would vary by grade level, but not so much that the meaning of the application would be changed. On Thursday, Parman further explained what he meant. "At the first reading of the policy there were some comments from a few middle school teachers that wanted to take the policy and go further with it," Parman said. "They wanted to ban them completely." Parman said that would not be done, though, as the policy was meant to restrict electronic device usage, not ban it entirely. Certain circumstances warranted students being permitted to carry and sometimes use the devices cell phones especially outside of the restricted times. "There will be circumstances where we will allow a student to use the phone during school hours," he said. "I met a student at Havre Middle School and he was using his cell phone to send a text. When I asked him who he was texting he said, 'I'm texting my father,' and (the text) was related to a medical condition, so that's a very legitimate use. Those would be the type of circumstances where it will be allowed." Parman added Thursday that outright banning of the electronic devices was not entirely out of the question, though. "This is probably a policy we ought to review once a year," he said. "If we do our best to enforce it and it doesn't get better, that would be when you look at it again. But I think we need at least a year to see if it works." Parman said he looked to other administrators around the state before he made the decision that the policy should be restrictive in nature rather than issue a ban. "Other schools we've talked to in the state and the legal council that have given them help (in drafting similar policies) have said banning is not a successful place to start," he said. The discussion on whether or not to add the policy began Jan. 22 when several school board members at a planning meeting expressed concern over How middle school and high school students were abusing the technology by cheating on tests and harassing fellow students. The biggest concern, Parman has said, surrounded cell phones. "One of the questions is what's the level of disruption we see in the school," he said Jan. 23. "We have had numerous cases of cheating. They're taking and passing inappropriate pictures. It's just very disruptive. If you've ever seen a high school student texting ." Parman has also said MP3 players were being used to cheat on tests. "Students can record themselves and store the audio file on there," he said. Parman said the policy went into effect as soon as it was passed, but it wouldn't be added to the students' handbooks until next year. Notification, he added would be up to the schools' principals. "It is effective immediately," he said. "(At school) we have an advisory period, like the old homeroom period, and teachers can make announcements. I leave it to the principals to decide (how)." In other school board business The school board requested Parman look into revisiting a teamstyle of teaching to help better the transition of the sixth-graders into middle-school. In a letter to the school board members, Scott and Carol Prindiville asked the school to consider changing the policy that sixth-graders be treated like seventh- and eighth-graders. "(We) have been doing some reading on this matter and have found that with the No Child Left Behind (Act) the research is pointing toward that it was a mistake to turn the sixthgrade elementary way of learning into a middle school level," the letter said. "The students are not ready for the speed of which the subjects are taught and the fact of just moving from class to class is a stress to them." Parman said that while the middle school never had self-contained classrooms for the sixth-graders, previously, the number of teachers each student had was limited to a team of three teachers, with the exception of electives classes. "I think what (Mrs. Prindiville's) thoughts really are founded in doing a better job of transitioning the sixth-graders," Parman said Thursday. Parman said due to budget constraints, the number of teachers at the middle school was reduced, and sixth-graders were expected to go from class to class, just like the seventh- and eighth-grade students. "I don't have any argument with the concept, but how close can we get to that since we can't hire any more staff?" Parman said. "If we could do anything it would be our best within the fiscal restraints that we have." The next two board meetings are set for May 13. The meeting at Robbins School at 12:15 p.m. is to swear-in the new trustees and the other at 6:30 p.m. at the HMS is the regularly scheduled meeting.