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William McDonald contemplates phone ban

William McDonald Middle School is asking parents for feedback on a proposed cellphone ban to counter a lack of social engagement between students.

For the past few years, principal Jeff Seabrook has seen a lot of students not engaging or socializing with each other, instead preferring to escape into the world of their phones.

“A lot of kids aren't even completing their lunches,” he said. “They're not even being active. They're just going outside and sitting on their devices.”

Seabrook estimates more than 75 per cent of his students are glued to their screens during breaks.

Currently, William McDonald allows students to use their phones during lunch and the activity hour. The school is proposing a ban starting in the upcoming school year on the use of cellphones from the time the children come to school until 3:20 p.m. During this time, cellphones and ipods that are used for texting or accessing the Internet must be kept in lockers.

Parents and guardians are being asked for their input on whether they would support such a ban, and so far Seabrook has seen overwhelming support at 93 per cent of respondents.

This is an idea not limited to the middle school. Range Lake North has already implemented a policy where students must keep their phones turned off and in their lockers during the school day except for approved educational uses.

According to Yellowknife Education District No. 1 superintendent Metro Huculak, each school is in charge of setting these types of policies, and he hasn't heard of any other schools in the district looking to do the same.

When asked if this is something he would consider instituting across the district, he said he would first need to hear from parents on the topic.

For parents concerned about how to reach their children during school hours, Seabrook said William McDonald Middle School has telephones in each classroom and an administrative assistant that answers calls during the school day.