Every morning, thanks to a new policy enacted for the start of the academic year, pupils at Pierson Middle and High School slip their cellphones into pouches that are then magnetically sealed, preventing the students from using their phones during the school day. When the last bell rings, they use magnetic openers stationed near the exits to access their phones once again.
It took a few days to iron out the logistics, Sag Harbor School District officials said during Monday night’s school board meeting, but, so far, the grownups in the building are considering it a success.
The technology was purchased from a company named Yondr that developed the pouches for use at events like concerts and comedy shows. Yondr representatives were on site during a faculty and staff conference day to provide training, and were present on the first and second days of school to ensure the process went as smoothly as possible.
“Yondr appears to be cutting down on the number of distractions to learning,” said Anthony Chase Mallia, the president of the faculty union, the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor, during the public comment session. Students are “getting more done in groups” and are “actually talking to one another again in the hallways and lunch room.”
“Detaching students from their digital lives during the school day” appears to be “having a positive impact” on their academics and emotional well-being, Mr. Mallia concluded.
Jeff Nichols, the district superintendent, said he had spoken with “two or three” parents and that Brittany Carriero, Pierson’s principal, had spoken to six parents who were unhappy with the new policy.
“It was really the classic equation of individual rights versus what the goal is, which is the collective good,” Mr. Nichols said. “The people I spoke to resented the fact that they thought this was overreach with respect to their rights.” He told those callers that the district would work with them on “reasonable accommodations.”
Some school board members said they have heard positive things from students themselves.
“I had a senior tell me yesterday it’s not THAT bad,” said Sandi Kruel, the school board president.
Jordana Sobey, the board vice president, added, “The feedback is ‘I’m not supposed to tell you I like it. If anybody asks, I hate it, but it’s actually really good.’ ”