STMA to draft new electronic device policies

The St. Michael-Albertville School Board revisited the subject of allowing greater use of student electronic devices, when used for educational purposes.

No decision was made, but the board directed staff to create K-8 and high school electronic device policies.

The board also heard an update about the weather/early dismissal procedures, and heard from a high school senior about reducing the broadcast journalism teacher position.




Supt. Jim Behle updated board members Gayle Weber, Carol Steffens, Drew Scherber, Jeff Lindquist, Jeanne Holland and Doug Birk on “Policy 506 — Student Discipline and Use of Electronic Devices in Schools.”

Behle updated the board about how the policy is applied to the schools. For example, at the primary, elementary and middle school levels, students are not allowed to possess electronic devices during the school day. Educational electronic devices such as e-readers require administration approval.

At the high school, students can possess electronic devices but cannot use them during instructional time or in locker rooms or lavatories.

Behle said perceptions of possessing such devices and use of technology have changed since the policy was approved in 2009, saying devices and applications have advanced and are no longer viewed solely as nuisances or distractions but as educational tools as well. He also said parents prefer cell phones for effective communication with their student children.

Behle said the existing policy addresses unacceptable behavior but not language directing educational use for electronic devices. Additionally, he said, on a limited basis some high school teachers allow students to use cell phones for educational purposes such as research, or taking pictures of the whiteboard or science experiment to study later.

In reviewing policies from other school districts, Behle said most include similar language prohibiting cell phone use during instructional time, but separates cell phone use from other devices that can be used for educational purposes.

The board discussed the kindergarten through eighth grade electronic device use and reached consensus that the current language in the policy is acceptable, and agreed to allow e-readers as approved by administration. Board chairperson Birk also directed Supt. Behle to create a proposed K-8 policy based on board consensus, and directed Behle to work with administration to draft a high school policy for review at the June 17 board meeting.



In other news, Supt. Behle presented the School Weather Closing, Delays and Early Dismissal procedures to the board.

He said, once approved, the procedures would be part of the emergency manual, superintendent information handbook, and on the district website.

He said the most significant change is if school is canceled during bus routes, drivers will continue their route and take the students to their school, and then the parent would be contacted.

Behle also included the National Weather Service wind chill guidelines. He said this information would be shared with all bus drivers at their August meeting.

In other action, the board:

HEARD from high school senior Vincent Bertsch with a request to reconsider assigning broadcast journalism teacher Jox Metcalf from halftime physical education and halftime broadcast journalism teacher back to full-time broadcast journalism teacher. Bertsch commended Metcalf and shared some successes students had in the broadcast journalism courses. Supt. Behle said the high school sets the course actions based on number of students enrolled, with initial enrollment down, so the position was reduced. Behle said he and high school principal Bob Driver would meet to review course assignments and then update the board.