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Edgerton High School joins others adopting zero tolerance cell phone policy

EDGERTON (WKOW) –Edgerton High School will join a growing list of schools and districts cracking down on cell phones in classrooms.

For Edgerton High School Principal Mark Coombs, this year was the breaking point.

“I walk into a classroom as the high school principal, not uncommon for me to see two or three kids come in checking their messages or doing something on their cell phone,” he said.

So Coombs has a simple goal for the 2019-2020 school year. During their 44 minute class periods he wants all eyes up front and all phones out of sight.

“It’s become an ever increasing difficult situation for our teachers to police cell phone use,” he said.

For years, the Edgerton policy has been that phones can be in the classroom but they need to be off and out of sight. Coombs said that hasn’t been enough to stop the distraction and faculty wanted a stricter policy with clearer consequences.

The new policy would have faculty confiscate any phone that’s out during class time, whether that’s in the classroom, the halls or the bathroom. Phones would go to the office for the remainder of the day. On the first offense, the student could pick it up. On the second offense, a parent would have to come in to pick it up at the end of the day.

“We’re just trying to remove the distraction so we can put more focus on academics during our 44 minute periods in class,” Coombs said.

Edgerton is far from the first school cracking down. Jefferson and Evansville High Schools implemented a similar policy last year and Portage High School Principal Robin Kvalo added it to her school’s handbook two years ago.

“I think my teachers and myself would say this is one of the best policies we’ve ever implemented,” she said.

At first, Kvalo said students had complaints but since, she said they’ve been confiscating fewer and fewer phones ever since.

“[Students] found that they can live without it for 50 minutes a period and some have come and told me they actually feel happier,” she said. “The most most unexpected impact is the number of students who’ve talked about how their anxiety has gone down.”

As for parents, many in Edgerton, like Brad Troger said they’re hoping for similar results.

“If everybody follows through on their part it could be a fairly simple fix,” he said.

Others parents have expressed concerns about safety and communication in case of emergencies. Coombs said he discussed that with the district safety director as well as the Edgerton police chief and they both told him his plan shouldn’t impact emergency plans.

All classrooms will still have at least one phone for teachers to call 911 if necessary and parents can call the main office if they need to get in touch with their child.

As Edgerton prepares to roll out their new policy, Coombs said he expects some early growing pains, but based on feedback from fellow schools with similar rules, Coombs is hoping for another success.

“We wouldn’t be going to this if we didn’t feel we had an issue to resolve,” he said.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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