School bans cell phones, backpacks ‘in proactive approach to managing’

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Granville superintendent Tom McGurl delivered his monthly report to the Board of Education on Sept. 13 just five days after the implementation of new standards set in the high school building to improve academic learning. (Photo by Austin Crosier)

In the first Board of Education meeting since the start of the new school year, Granville superintendent Tom McGurl announced major changes at the high school to accomplish the “tremendous amount of work to do this year” to get back on track following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl

“I think people have expressed that the opening of school feels different this year,” McGurl said. “More positive, more focused collectively on some preset goals. I think everybody is understanding and supportive of the approach we’re taking this year that rules need to be followed.

“I think we have made a very clear statement that we are wanting to make a proactive approach to managing our school, our students and our approach to academics. I really don’t believe failure is an option.”

One of the biggest changes is in the Junior/Senior High School building, where the “Code of Conduct” for this school year clearly prohibits the use of cell phones during instruction hours.

And students will no longer be allowed to carry backpacks to class.

“In general, school office phones and classroom phones are for the use of school personnel only,” the policy says. “Under certain circumstances, staff members may allow students to use school office phones.

“Use of cell phones or other electronic devices by students during school hours is not allowed during the instructional day, at any time. Cell phones and earbuds must be away and powered off in all classrooms including lunch and study hall. Smart watches are also not to be used for communication or internet purposes in classrooms.”

Tammy Treen, assistant principal at the Junior/Senior High School, said there is a discipline consequence chart for those in violation and pointed to the policy on page five of the Student-Parent Handbook for reference, as well as signs throughout the building.

“During a class period, the teacher will ask the student to power off the device and turn it over to the teacher. The student may receive the device at the end of the period,” the policy says.

“If students refuse to turn over such devices, or if they are repeatedly in violation of the outlined policy: First warning: call home by teacher. Second warning: confiscation – device will be held in the office until the end of the day. Third warning: confiscation of device and parent must retrieve the device from the office.”

“At this point in time, there haven’t been a lot of (issues),” Treen said. ‘As long as it’s on them, I feel as though they feel comfort that, you know, it’s there for them. It’s a three-strike rule then their parent has to come get it for them.”

Board member Ed Vladyka asked McGurl if there has been any evidence of pushback against the new rules on cell phones, along with having students not carry their backpacks throughout the halls and classrooms anymore.

McGurl mentioned a nearby school district had an incident where a BB gun fell out of a student’s backpack.

“That’s a good reason there why we don’t want kids to carry backpacks,” he said. ‘It’s just one less thing we have to worry about.”

Alternatives are being considered for students with health needs like needing snacks for diabetes, according to McGurl.

Although the Code of Conduct does not specifically say anything about backpacks, students are encouraged to store all belongings in their lockers “at their own risk.”

“I did check with Mr. (Beecher) Baker on this, there is some (pushback),” McGurl said. “We expected some but we are extremely early in the school year. I don’t think it’s what we expected it to be at that level.

“There actually seems to be more pushback on the backpack issue than cell phones. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” McGurl said. “I don’t think it’s risen to the level of insurrection and marching out front, it’s nothing like that.”

The Student-Parent handbook for the high school can be accessed online at https://cdn5-ss12.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_12172691/File/Student-Parent%20Handbook%20JH_SH2022%20-2023.pdf.

The two elementary school codes of conducts can be accessed on the district website.