District implements YONDR bags; students find them inconvenient

Jack Latreille and Sarah Ordway

Most students are used to putting their phones in caddies or baskets, but several classes have been piloting the use of YONDR bags: pouches that magnetically lock a student’s phone during the class. The program has been piloted in a number of South classrooms and depending on the feedback the administration receives, students may see them throughout more classrooms next year, according to Ronald Bean, assistant principal and dean of students.

Students get to keep their phones at their desk, but at the end of class, they unlock their phone using a magnet at the front of the room and return the pouch to their teacher, Bean said.

“What we were trying to do was give students a way to separate from their phones during class time so they could concentrate on what was going on during class, but [we wanted students to] also be in possession of their own phone,” Bean explained.

Many teachers who were part of the initial pilot program have already seen the impact of YONDR bags in their classrooms. Math teacher Ann Kotsadam has been using YONDR bags in her classroom since the beginning of the school year. Despite some complications, including students trying to break the pouches open, she feels that the bags have overall been beneficial in keeping her class focused.

“The concept is really good,” Kotsdam said. “[YONDR bags help] keep the phones out of [students’] hands and not be a distraction to their learning. I think it is really helping the students.”

Some students, including sophomore Anu Valiaveedu, have a different perspective on YONDR bags. During quizzes or tests, Valiaveedu said that phones have often been inside the bags, and the class has to go through a lengthy process of unlocking everyone’s phone until they find out which phone was ringing. Valiaveedu also said that the process of unlocking all the phones at the end of the class is a hassle.

“The bell rings, but we still have our YONDR bags,” Valiaveedu explained. “We only have one magnet, so it takes a solid five minutes for a class of 20 to open up all of the bags.”

When attending the Central Suburban League’s Dean Conference, a conference featuring deans from local high schools, Bean heard about YONDR bags and their use in Highland Park High School. From there, Bean consulted Dr. R. J. Gravel, assistant superintendent for business, and looked into piloting YONDR bags in District 225.

The District started looking for alternative ways to store phones after an incident in which a student whose phone broke as a teacher passed it back to them had to be reimbursed for the phone, Gravel said. The teacher routinely collected phones at the beginning of class, but after paying for a replacement, the district started to look into different ways that they could store phones in the classroom.

“We were fortunate enough to contact the company [YONDR] who came out [and gave a presentation],” Bean said. “[YONDR] did a presentation for the principals and deans at [both South and North] to talk about the product and the uses of it.”

YONDR bags have been tested in a few classes at South  including, the Math, Science, CTE and Special Education departments, Bean said. If the administration hears positive feedback, they may decide to expand the use of YONDR bags into other classrooms next year. Though classes currently have a set of bags that remain in the room, Bean said that District 225 is exploring the possibility of students purchasing their own pouches at the start of the year and bring them from class to class.

Senior Abby Neptun uses YONDR bags in her math class, and like Valiaveedu, Neptun said that the bags create unnecessary complications when leaving class. Neptun said that though she thinks they don’t benefit her own class, she feels that South should still explore if they could be useful in certain rooms or situations.

“I think it very much depends on the students that a teacher has in class and the class itself,” Neptun said.  “Every student is different and has a different relationship with their phone, so it is hard to gauge what would be best for the whole student body.”