Chesterton Tribune

 

 

School board asked to limit phone and computer use on buses

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Language in a new policy regarding use of personal communication devices by students at Duneland Schools will be reworded to reflect that students will not be allowed to use the devices on school buses on the way to and from school.

The Duneland School Board was prepared to approve a final reading Monday of a policy decreeing where and when PCDs can be used.

Devices such as cell phones, smartphones, iPad tablets, computers and electronic reading devices are to be turned off and stored away during class hours and after school activities, the policy says.

After a first reading during a special board meeting on April 24 and an article that followed in the Chesterton Tribune reporting that PCDs could be used on buses, Duneland Director of Transportation Jim Bonfield wrote a letter to the school board bringing to light incidents where PCDs on buses had caused disruptions, such as playing music too loudly and tossing phones around. The incidents have raised concerns of safety for the drivers of those buses, he said.

“There have been a number of problems we’ve had to deal with,” he said.

Bonfield asked the board to consider putting language that would require PCDs be turned off and put away on buses during school hours which would include transporting students to and from school.

“We are not running a country club. We need to get students from Point A to Point B,” he said.

The paragraph in question from the policy reads as follows: “Students may use PCDs while riding to and from school on a school bus or other Board-provided vehicles of on a school bus or Board-provided vehicle during school-sponsored activities, at the discretion of the bus driver, classroom teacher, and sponsor / advisor / coach.”

Bonfield said that giving the bus driver discretion risks creating confrontations if one bus driver allows the devices and other bus drivers do not.

Board members Ronald Stone and John Marshall said that particular part of the policy was meant for longer bus trips, like to a sporting event or a field trip where a coach, teacher or a chaperone can monitor the students while the bus driver attends to watching the road.

“I don’t think that’s (the bus driver’s) job to police that,” Marshall said.

Superintendent of Schools Dirk Baer confirmed that PCDs are not permitted when a bus is in route to the school in the morning or taking students home in the afternoon, since those are still technically school hours.

Bonfield said there will still be students who try to use PCDs for texting which may go unnoticed by a bus driver but having the policy directly say the devices are not allowed will at least give the drivers some “teeth” if an issue does arise.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations David Pruis said he would “massage” the language and bring it to the board for approval at the next meeting.

In a related matter, the board approved various changes to the student handbook. One item not included yet is the breathalyzer policy which is currently a pilot program.

Chesterton High School Principal Jim Goetz said he would ask the board to consider adopting a policy at a future meeting once school officials study the results of the pilot program.

The pilot program is having students submit to breathalyzer tests before entering the prom or Wednesday’s senior banquet.

If the board adopts a policy prior to registration this summer an addendum will be included, Goetz said.

Rain Barrel contest winners

In other matters, Terese Davis of the Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County and Chesterton MS4 Operator Jennifer Gadzala turned out to congratulate to teachers Terese Maletta, Allison Nix and students in the Chesterton Art Club for their first place win in the Rain Barrel Design Competition, held at the County Expo Center during the 2013 Earth Day Celebration.

A total of 25 barrels were submitted by 18 schools in the contest and their design was voted best by attendees of the event, Davis said. Schools could use the barrels as a fundraiser or the barrels could be purchased by one of the teachers.

The CHS barrel was decorated by the Art Club with a mosaic pattern using paint and recycled stained glass to create an image of the Indiana dunes.

Gadzala said the students who participated were Shannon Quartuch, Keith Kennedy, Emily Dyrek, Bailey Volkman, Ashley Castillo and Arthur Castillo.

In addition to receiving a certificate, the teachers also received two “hand” chairs made out of recycled plastic milk and detergent bottles, Davis said.

The purpose of the contest was to raise awareness of the need for water conservation and environmental protection, she added.

Text book rates

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Monte Moffett presented the proposed textbook rental rates for the upcoming 2013-2014 school year for grades K-6, which the board did approve.

Moffett said increases were seen this year in costs for textbooks in the Reading and Writing categories, especially for Kindergarten and first grade. Other textbook prices for next year will stay the same, he said.

Total fees for textbook rental and instruction are $143 for Kindergarten and for first grade $170, which last year were $120 and $152 respectively. Fees for other grades, and what they were last year in parentheses for comparison, are as follows: 2nd Grade -- $144 ($140), 3rd Grade -- $153 ($130), 4th Grade -- $140 ($130), 5th Grade -- $147 ($138) and 6th Grade -- $143 ($141).

Hires

Three new teachers, one new aide, and a new media specialist will become part of the Duneland staff for 2013-14, Moffett reported.

Katie Muller will teach science at CHS after finishing her third year of teaching in Frankfort. She is a former CHS student.

Another CHS alum, Katie Gaston, will teach P.E. and Health at CMS. She has been an instructional assistant at Westchester Intermediate and Liberty Elementary.

Josh Tudor will teach science at CMS. He has taught the subject at Pierce Middle School in Merrillville for the past three years.

Also at CMS, Julie Frye will become the school’s next media specialist. She has received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University, Bloomington, and previously served as a media specialist at Triton Central High School and Kitley Intermediate School.

Next meeting

The board will convene next on Tuesday, June 4, rather than on Monday, June 3.

Baer said he did not want the meeting to conflict with a large event the Duneland/Chesterton Chamber of Commerce is planning on June 3.

At the next meeting, the board will hold a public hearing on additional appropriations for the remodeling of the former IMC building as a wellness center for Duneland faculty and staff.

Baer said advertising the public hearing does not force the board into proceeding with those appropriations.

 

Posted 5/7/2013