Trenton R-9 Board of Education tackles issue of cell phone use in classrooms

Cellphones in the Classroom

The Trenton R-9 Board of Education approved student handbooks at a meeting Tuesday evening, with the exception of 90% attendance for trips, assemblies, and dances in the Trenton High School and Middle School handbooks, on a split vote.

Board member David Whitaker moved, and Dorothy Taul seconded the motion, which passed three to two. Board members Corey Leeper, Dorothy Taul, and David Whitaker voted in favor and Doug Franklin and Cliff Roeder voted no. Brandon Gibler and Marcie Cutsinger were absent.

Before the vote, Whitaker said he understood the 90% attendance rule on sports activities because of the Missouri High School Activities Association guidelines, but he did not like the rule applied to other school activities. Trenton Middle School and High School Assistant Principal Kasey Bailey said the policy was based on other school districts. Taul noted she had received many calls about the policy and said school attendance was the parents’ responsibility for younger students. President Doug Franklin said he did not want to “throw out” a policy just because of a few complaints.

Cell phone use was also discussed with Whitaker noting he saw several complaints in exit interviews about phones in classrooms, and he wanted to consider banning phones completely. Bailey said the current policy is that students should not be on phones during instruction time. Students who use phones in classrooms without permission can be sent to the office. Phones are banned in In-School Suspension, and sometimes students do not want to turn in their phones. This leads to more discipline and some receiving Out of School Suspension. Bailey added that he knows of several schools that collect phones at the beginning of the day and give them back at the end.

Whitaker asked about having students keep phones in their lockers. High School Principal Ron Franklin noted not many lockers are being used, but Bailey believes there are enough working lockers for each student. Taul said she thought teachers should make the decision of phone use in classrooms. Roeder asked why teachers should have to deal with phones and said banning phones would mean teachers would not have to worry about them in their classrooms. Superintendent Dan Wiebers said he thought it would be best to see what other districts are doing. Changes to the policy could be made later.

Prior to the vote on handbooks to strike the 90% attendance policy on trips, assemblies, and dances, Bailey reported the main changes for the middle school and high school handbooks regarded updating calendars and names.

Director of Special Education Tara Hoffman reported changes to the preschool handbook included changing the curriculum to focus on kindergarten readiness and updating the party policy to match S. M. Risseler Elementary School’s handbook. Rissler Principal Tiffany Otto said the changes to the elementary handbook included updating release times, volunteer background checks based on a new Missouri law, and changing parties to activities. She would like to take students to the Trenton Cinema for Christmas parties instead of having classroom parties.

The board approved the extension of the agreement with the Newton Alliance, LLC for Catapult Learning for summer school through 2022. The cost will remain at $525 times the average daily student attendance through summer 2022.

The board approved the bid from MFA of Trenton on the average cost of $2.43 per gallon in May. Central Dairy/Prairie Farms was approved for dairy. Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels said Trenton R-9 would save money with Central Dairy for all but one item. Anderson Erickson also submitted a bid.