Separating teens from their favorite form of communication, with the hope of minimizing class disruptions, may seem like a daunting task. But San Mateo High School is taking the challenge head-on by locking up students' phones for the entire school day.
Starting this school year, the new program requires San Mateo High's more than 1,700 students to put their cellphones in a sealed pouch every morning, and they can't get them back until they go home.
The program was launched after administrators saw a pattern of phones preventing learning.
"We could walk into a variety of classrooms, and kids would be on their cellphones anywhere from 5 seconds, checking a text, to 30-45 minutes at a time," said Adam Gelb, assistant principal.
Now, each morning, students must put their phones in a Yondr pouch. It's sealed with a magnet, and they keep it with them. At the end of the school day, they unseal the pouch using a device.
The cost of the program is $20,000 and was paid for using a grant.
Teachers said they've already seen a difference, with more attentive students. The teens, meanwhile, have mixed feelings.
"I think lunchtime it should be allowed," student Kaveela Blackwell said. "It's your free time to do what you want."
Student Ariana Lacson added: "At first, I was skeptical. But now, I like it because it makes students socialize more amongst each other, and teachers say students are talking to each other more rather than being zoned out on their phones."
Students are assigned a Yondr pouch at the beginning of the school year, and if they lose it, it will cost them $25 for a replacement.
The school has made some exceptions for medical and other reasons to allow some students to access their phones during the day.