The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

Deal introduces Yondr pouches for phones

On September 6, Alice Deal Middle School handed out Yondr pouches to students entering the building. Yondr pouches, first designed to create phone-free environments at concerts, have started to make their way into schools. Deal, looking for a remedy for skyrocketing phone usage, is hopeful Yondr pouches will provide the solution they’ve been searching for.

“Over the pandemic people got attached to their phones, so the Yondr pouch is a tool to help make sure their phone is not a distraction,” said Patrick Rottman, the eighth grade assistant principal. 

When entering the school, students must pass through three checkpoints. An administrator inspects the pouch prior to security, a security guard checks it as the student enters, and finally another administrator inspects it post-security. Yondr pouches contain magnets that automatically lock when closed and can only be unlocked at a unlocking station. 

At the end of the day, students use one of 25 unlocking stations located throughout the building to retrieve their devices, which is only available after school to ensure students can’t unlock their pouches during the day. Students must bring their pouch to school each day and store it in their locker. Failure to comply with this expectation results in a call home and turning one’s phone into administration. 

Deal has also outlined punishments for any attempt to damage a Yondr pouch. “If you bang it hard enough, it will pop open,” Martina Dudine, an eighth grader at Deal, said. Attempting to destroy a pouch is classified as vandalism, resulting in suspension. If a student forgets their Yondr pouch, administration will hold their devices until the end of the day. 

While students were unhappy with the pouches initially, some have started to come around. “At first I was very upset when I heard about it,” said Eva Ruf, an eighth grader. “Now that it’s been two weeks I’m starting to not care.”

With the Yondr Pouches in effect, morning and end-of-day lines have increased, as each student must lock and unlock their individual pouch before entering or exiting the building. 

Due to these long lines, teachers have been asked not to mark students tardy. “It makes a ton of people late for school,” Annika Kimbrell, a current eighth grader at Deal, said. 

Some students have noted the benefit of having administrators stationed at each unlocking base, limiting the potential for chaos. Students hope lines will start to shorten once kids get the hang of it. “At first I thought how do you think this is going to work, but now I think it’s not that bad. There are enough [stations] to make the process quick,” Dudine added.

Yondr pouches are an expensive means of regulating phone use and students are fully aware of that. “I think it does help, but I feel like there could be better and much cheaper ways of handling it,”said Stella Ruf, an eighth grader. Students also face a fine of 15-30 dollars for a lost pouch.

Another issue that has arisen is what happens in the case of an emergency. Multiple students emphasized how last year’s lockdown brought to light the importance of having quick access to their phones. “I was really freaking out towards the end because I didn’t know how I was going to get home. I wasn’t allowed to use my phone and that really caused a lot of panic,“ Eva Ruf said. 

Many parents have also voiced concerns that students will miss their bus to return home, as they must wait in line to unlock their pouch. However, according to the school website, Deal will “hold the buses until all students have unlocked their pouches and exited the building.” Deal has upheld that promise and has been holding buses until 3:35 each day.

Yondr pouches were introduced in response to the increased phone usage following the online year, but has it really decreased? “I think that there is less phone use, but people are still finding loopholes of ways to get it out,” Eva Ruf said. The overall environment of the school also seems to have improved. “There’s been less fights and less conflict,” Ruf added. 

While this is the first year Deal has implemented this technology, in 2018, Jackson-Reed attempted to do the same. Initially, former Principal Kimberly Martin introduced Yondr pouches in STEM classes, with the intention of expanding to other subjects throughout the year. Students would lock their phones upon entering each class and unlock them as they left. However, the idea lasted less than a year. For now, there doesn’t appear to be a road back for Yondr pouches at JR, as “we are way beyond that now,” Gregory Bargeman, the 12th grade assistant principal, said. 

Yondr pouches have provided a solution to reducing phone use at Deal so far. “Most kids have been really understanding. It’s been a helpful tool and a way to remove some temptation,” Rottman said. With students settling into their routine and the new normal of Yondr pouches, Deal may have found a solution to the question of how to curb phone usage.

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Alice Stillerman, Sports Editor
2021-23: Junior Editor 2023-23: Sports Editor

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