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WEST SPRINGFIELD — Students at West Springfield High School will soon have to join their counterparts at the regional vocational school in locking away their cellphones during the day.

The West Springfield School Committee voted Jan. 9 to support an additional $21,500 in spending — on top of a $25,000 grant already received — to purchase 1,200 magnetically sealed pouches from Yondr. School Business Manager Adam Tarquini said originally, the School Department thought the grant would cover the full cost of the purchase, but Yondr recently raised its prices. It will now cost $46,080 to implement the system at West Springfield High School, Tarquini said, along with a minimal maintenance cost each year to replace pouches as they wear out or are damaged.

Superintendent Stefania Raschilla said the purpose of the pouches is “to increase time on learning so that students aren’t playing on their phones” in class. She said the proposal to adopt this system came from the high school principal after consulting with students and teachers.

In the Yondr system, students who bring electronic devices to school are required to seal them in a bag at the start of the school day. They maintain possession of the device throughout the day, but the sealed pouch prevents them from being able to use it. When it is time for the student to be dismissed, school staff use a magnetic device to unlock the pouch.

School Committee member Diana Coyne said the same technology is already being used at the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s Career and Technical Education Center, the regional vocational school in West Springfield.

“They’ve found the student feedback is positive, because students now feel a tad more present in their classrooms,” Coyne said.

The School Committee voted 5-1 to support the additional funding. Committee member Robert Mancini objected to taking cellphones away from students, naming two safety concerns: first, he wanted students to be able to communicate with their families in the event of an emergency, and second, he is afraid of students reacting violently to school staff interfering with their expensive property. He said there had been an incident in Connecticut where a student whose phone was being confiscated sprayed a teacher with mace.

“I do not in any way condone a kid picking up a cellphone in the classroom when a teacher is teaching,” he said, but “I have a problem with taking someone’s cellphone.”

He said he would have preferred setting a rule that devices cannot be used during class, and relying on individual teachers to enforce it through traditional discipline methods, such as sending an offender to the principal’s office.

mballway@thereminder.com | + posts