New school year brings new changes for RPS students

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(ABC 6 News) – Teachers and staff are now back for another school year and while it brings a lot of excitement, there are also some changes students need to pay attention to.

The big change involves cell phones. Phones have been a controversial topic in schools in recent years.

A recent Harvard University study found the issue isn’t so much the device itself, it’s the distraction that comes along with it, and the temptation to check it during class.

On the flip side, in 2020, the National Education Association put out a report supporting phones in the classroom. The report claims phones can help students learn in a more interactive way.

While cell phones have been around for years, school leaders in Rochester have noticed a change since kids came back to school after being home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Personal technology has been an issue for at least the last decade,” said Angi McAndrews, the principal at Kellogg Middle School.

“I would say every year it gets a little bit worse. I think we saw a pretty substantial jump in concerns about it when kids came back. But, I also think when kids were in distance learning and behind a screen, there was no one there to really monitor it.”

To help with less phone usage in the classroom, there are three zones students need to pay attention to. ‘Green’ means it’s a safe zone to use your phone. That’s in the cafeteria and outside at lunch and in the hallways during passing time.

At Kellogg, there will be a ‘yellow’ zone. This means students can use their Chromebooks for educational purposes, but not their personal devices.

‘Red’ is the “no zone.” Cell phones cannot be used in red zones. Those places include bathrooms and locker rooms.

“We have 10-to-14-year-olds here and they all have developing brains and bodies and they have a tendency to sometimes get dysregulated,” added McAndrews. “Ultimately, I think by limiting when kids have access to their phones, they’ll be able to be more on task, more in-tune and engaged in their learning.”

Do students think they can keep the phone away? Incoming 6th-grader Elizabeth Jensen is conflicted: “Yea, well, no. Maybe, well, no, not really. Cause I’m not really on it all the time.”

Another incoming 6th-grader, Nicole Odhiambo said she just won’t bring her phone. While another fellow 6th-grader, Kayden Guerrero said she can manage the temptation.

“It will be easy,” said Guerrero. “Cause I really care about my education so I know I got to get good grades to get into the school that I want to. So I know when I should be on my phone, and when I shouldn’t.”

For these incoming 6th-graders, phones seem to be the least of their concerns. Like Jensen who is worried about getting to her classes.

Middle school isn’t looking so scary for some. For Guerrero, she said she’s excited about making new friends, and then there’s Odhiambo, who said: “I’m feeling excited. Because then I get new teachers and all that. I’m looking forward to lunch because they say it’s a better lunch here than it is in elementary school.”

Big changes, for students starting a new school.

Rochester isn’t the only school making changes. For example, at Kasson-Mantorville Middle School, cell phones will not be allowed from 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. which includes lunchtime and in-between classes.