In an effort to improve connection and prepare students for future success, the admin team at Harwood Union is asking the community to join a dialogue on banning cellphones during the school day for high school students starting next fall.





That dialogue takes place next Wednesday, May 26, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the school. In an interview this week with The Valley Reporter and Waterbury Roundabout, school co-principal Meg McDonough explained that as part of administrators’ annual end of school review of what is working and what needs more work, “everything kept coming back to cellphones.”

She said cellphones create barriers and administrators have been working for a month to understand the impact, what the data shows and to explore how cellphone bans have worked in other schools.

Harwood admins spent time discussing a similar ban at U-32 High School in Montpelier and were told that “we have no regrets” and “this has been an incredibly powerful decision.” U-32 she said, bans cellphones in the classroom. Harwood and Crossett Brook already ban cellphones for middle schools as does the HCLC where students have embraced cell-free learning.

McDonough said that her peers at U-32 shared specific positive outcomes in the classroom and said she and her colleagues dug into further research about other national efforts and work in Norway.

“The data and research that is coming up for us is all positive,” she said.

McDonough said that unless people were at the school, in the classroom on a daily basis it was hard to understand how pervasive, disruptive and intrusive cellphone use in the classroom can be. It prevents students from connecting in real time with learning, with their peers and their teachers.




The Waterbury Roundabout and The Valley Reporter raised specific questions about the logistics of how a cellphone ban would work.

  • Would student backpacks be searched
  • Would cellphones be placed in a center location in a classroom?
  • Would cellphones be left in lockers?
  • Could parents still text students to let them know about scheduling changes – or would parents have to call the central office to ask that a runner find their child in class and relay the info.
  • What about students with medical issues that are monitored by apps on their phones?
  • What about student journalists/artists using their phones to complete assignments?

McDonough acknowledged all of those questions and more were valid and were exactly why she and her colleagues wanted to start the community dialogue next week.

“There are somethings we’ve already started to consider to get things done other than phones. We’re not creating a policy, this is currently about expectations for students and teachers,” she said.

McDonough was asked if it might be better to teach students how to be disciplined around cellphone usage and how to understand the appropriate etiquette about classroom behavior and learning and respect to that process.

“How can we expect kids to go off to college or a job and know appropriate etiquette around a phone if we haven’t taught them to manage that,” Lisa Scagliotti, editor of the Waterbury Roundabout asked.

McDonough said that it’s about balance and setting expectations.

McDonough said that the cellphone ban will not be phased in. It will start at the beginning of the next school year and she said dialogue with the community would be ongoing once school starts next year.