School board to consider clarifying cell phone policyIncrease in usage of cell phones is prompting Dickinson Public School officials to look into clarifying their policies regarding the technology in next year’s student handbook.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
Increase in usage of cell phones is prompting Dickinson Public School officials to look into clarifying their policies regarding the technology in next year’s student handbook.
During Monday’s regular meeting of the DPS School Board, preliminary 2009-2010 student handbooks were presented and board members were able to discuss possible changes.
Board member Mitzi Swenson said she felt there was inconsistency between the cell phone usage policies in the elementary handbooks and those of the junior high and high school.
“In the elementary handbook it says that all cell phones must be turned off at all times and in the students’ backpack and/or locker,” Swenson said. “At Hagen it said that they are not allowed to use these items and any items discovered will be returned to the student at the end of the day…at Dickinson High it says cell phones or will not be permitted in the school building or in classrooms. It’s inconsistent.”
Board member Kris Fehr said she felt the current policy is backwards, as elementary students are not as apt to carry cell phones as are older kids.
“I don’t know why we could say that they could have them in their backpacks or lockers,” Fehr said. “But at the high school they probably all have them.”
Dickinson High School principal Ron Dockter and Hagen Junior High principal Perry Braunagel were on hand to give their opinions of cell phone usage.
“We’re not going to search kids and their backpacks or anything,” Dockter said. “The policy reads cell phones are not to be used in the building. Obviously that’s not very enforceable either.”
Dockter said he recently asked for numbers of infractions of the cell phone policy and received word that there are about 400 to 500 infractions to date.
The policy at the high school works as follows: The first offense, the phone is taken away and stored in the office for the rest of the day then returned to the student. The second offense, the phone is taken away for the remainder of the workweek. The third offense requires parents to come in and pick up the phone and sign a contract that informs them that if it happens again the phone will be taken away for the rest of the year, Dockter said.
So far, six to 12 students have had their phones taken away for the rest of the school year, he added.
“We have three to four students that have not one, not two but three cell phones that are stored in our vault until the end of the year,” Dockter said. “If cell phones are only used to call people then we wouldn’t have a problem.”
A good portion of the bully and harassment issues that are dealt with by school officials come by form of texting, he said.
The board decided that Supt. Paul Stremick will look into how other Class A schools handle cell phone usage and then it will be discussed again before the handbooks are printed.
In further discussing future facility planning, members of the board decided to narrow the list of possibilities to two: the concept of “sister schools,” which would encompass two kindergarten through second grade schools and third through fifth grade schools as well as adding on to Jefferson and Lincoln elementaries, which would give the schools six more classrooms to work with as well as a multi-purpose facility respectively.
At last month’s meeting, an increase in incoming kindergarten students prompted the board to consider options for expansion, where three other options were discussed: an all-inclusive school; a new elementary and moving fifth grade to Berg Elementary.
Due to estimated costs for an all-inclusive school and a new elementary, $12 million and $6 million respectively, the board decided to eliminate those as an option, as a bond issue would be needed and that would raise city taxes.
“I’m looking at cost and writing those two options right out of the water there,” said Dean Rummel, school board president. “That doesn’t mean we’re committing to anything because this will require public hearings. We’re definitely going to want to do some of that with the public especially if you’re going to be moving students.”
In addition, moving fifth grade to Berg would overcrowd the school and parking would be an issue, board members agreed.
Additions to Lincoln and Jefferson elementaries are roughly estimated to cost $1.45 million each, said Vince Reep, business manager for Dickinson Public Schools.
In other matters:
E The board approved unanimously an extracurricular cooperative agreement with Bismarck Public Schools in soccer beginning the fall of 2009.
E Stremick reported Gov. John Hoeven has waived one of the snow days request by DPS. The final day of school is scheduled for Friday, May 29.
The next meeting of the board is scheduled for 5 p.m., Monday, June 8, at the Central Administration Building.