Board OKs use of cellphones at Wheeler High School
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 8, 2014 10:44PM
Updated: February 11, 2014 6:18AM
VALPARAISO — Wheeler High School students will soon be able to use their cellphones during lunch — but only in the cafeteria and only during lunch.
The Union Township School Board approved a change to the student handbook Wednesday night that will allow the lunch usage in a pilot program.
Allowing the use will begin after an assembly on appropriate use, and students will still need to put their cellphones away before walking out of the lunchroom and in the halls and classrooms.
“I’m not seeing where it’s going to be an issue at lunch,” Wheeler High School Principal Don Gandy said. “A lot of times it’s kids texting their own parents.”
Gandy said the high school staff wants to teach the student cellphone responsibility, allowing some use as they would at a college.
“We do criminalize cellphones a lot,” he said.
There is also uneven enforcement of the rule during lunch, with some staff telling students to put the phones away and others allowing them, he said.
Students will still not be able to use cellphones in the cafeteria during study hall and will only be able to use them in classes under teacher supervision for projects like cellphone polls.
The two fears the staff had were students texting test answers and accessing inappropriate sites.
Gandy said that students shouldn’t have phones on during tests, and ones that want to pass answers won’t need phones to do so.
Staff will monitor students for possible inappropriate sites, but if students try to use the new wireless system, they’ll find their privileges limited.
The new system will have three methods of access: administrative, student and guest, Superintendent John Hunter said.
The teachers will not find any change in access or bandwidth they can use, and they’ll be able to access streaming video sites such as Youtube and TED talks for classes.
Students must use a password to connect to the wireless site, and students and guests will have limited access to sites and limited bandwidth.
The more people use those levels of service, the slower performance will be.
Students will be able to access the wireless after the assembly on proper use.
Also at the meeting, Hunter said the district has a 2.4 percent cash balance at year’s end, down from 4.28 percent last year and an average 10 percent in the years before sales tax replaced property taxes for the general fund.
The administration projected a negative balance if the district hadn’t approved a property tax referendum in spring.