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WHS allowing students to use cellphones

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As long as they are in the right zone, Watertown High School students can use their cellphones.

The school is allowing students to use cellphones in areas marked as green or yellow zones in the building in an effort to give them more responsibility.

“It just became a bigger battle than we were willing to fight,” Principal Leslie E. Atkinson said. “Obviously, technology is very prevalent in the lives of everyone today, and we decided we wanted to be more current with the times.”

Students still cannot use their phones in the red zones: the hallways, bathrooms, lunch lines and locker rooms. They also cannot take photos or record videos with their phones.

The yellow zone is in the classrooms and library under the teachers’ or librarians’ discretion.

The green zone is in the cafeteria.

The number of phone confiscations has decreased significantly.

“The comparison between this year and last year has been very impressive,” Mrs. Atkinson said. “At this point last year in late September, we exceeded 100 cellphone confiscations. We’ve had less than a dozen so far this year.”

Students say being able to use their phones sometimes during the day reduces the need to check them in the hallway or in a class where it is not allowed.

“I think it makes things a lot more peaceful,” said junior Samuel J. Elizondo, 16. “Students aren’t trying to sneak looks at their phones if they know their next period teacher will allow it.”

He said he did not use his phone last year, but others admitted they broke the school policy in years past.

“I would admit that I would use it when I needed to look things up,” said Rachael M. Coon, 18.

She said she now uses her phone to do research for homework and as a metronome in music class, using an app.

Because students can use their phones in the cafeteria, they often spend the last few minutes texting friends or catching up on their Facebook newsfeed.

“I have lunch at ninth period, and that’s usually when it’s the worst,” Mr. Elizondo said, referring to the noise. “It’s a lot quieter. It’s more peaceful.”

Miss Coon insisted the phones do not make students antisocial.

“Everyone still interacts with each other,” she said. “It’s not like we’re just on our cellphones.”

She said she feels the new policy treats her and the other students at Watertown High as the adults they want to be.

“For me, in the real world, there’s times when you can use a cellphone and when you can’t — like in the different zones here,” she said. “It allows you to have more responsibility for yourself.”

Mrs. Atkinson said she reminds the students that the policy is a privilege, however, that can be taken away if they do not follow the new “zone” rules.

“We asked them, and we continue to ask them, to earn this privilege,” she said. “We gave them this privilege because we trust them.”

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