San Francisco

East Bay High School Using Special Pouches to Keep Students Off Cellphones

With so many students glued to their phones, one East Bay high school has figured out a way to keep youngsters off their devices without actually taking them away.

San Lorenzo High School allows students to bring their smartphones to campus and even keep them on their person, but all students have to insert their phones into a locked pouch for the entirety of the school day.

"It has absolutely changed our entire school climate and culture," San Lorenzo High School Principal Allison Silvestri said. "Students talk to me in the halls now. They have to talk to each other. A substitute teacher noticed better posture because they’re not looking down at their phones in the hallways on the way to class.”

San Francisco-based Yondr created the green pouches specifically to curb cell phone use. The concept is fairly simple: students place their phones in a pouch at the beginning of the school day, lock the pouch shut and only regain access to their phones at the end of the day when the school unlocks the pouches with special magnets.

Silvestri, who called the policy change "transformative," said that ever since the school's roughly 1,400 students started using the pouches, the number of students being sent to her office for classroom disruptions has decreased by more than 50 percent.

"I have a lot of class time back," Olivia Hanley, a teacher at the school, said. "We go through assignments way faster than we did in previous years. Things that I’ve done for years now take 10-15 minutes fewer to complete the assignment."

Silvestri also said students are actually being more social despite despite not having access to their social media accounts in the palms of their hands.

"People are more interactive with each other and less with headphones and just by themselves," student Daniela Ceja said.

Fellow student Deshaun Smith added that his performance in the classroom has improved since the policy change.

"My grades have been getting better," he said. "Like, significantly changed to A’s and B’s. (I'm) used to getting C's and D's and stuff like that. I was always paying attention to my phone. It’s like I’m never worried about it now."

Not everyone is on board with the pouch policy. A couple of students said they think the policy is too strict, and they wish they could at least have access to their phones during breaks and at lunch.

Yondr secured a grant to provide San Lorenzo High School with their product. The company is also working with four other Bay Area schools: Oakland High School, Edison Charter Academy, Briones Independent Study School and Caliber Beta Academy.

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