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Parents, students react to Lewiston Public Schools cell phone ban

Cell phones are banned for use in school by students in pre-K through eighth grade, and high schoolers can use them between classes.

LEWISTON, Maine — Parents lined up outside Lewiston Middle School Wednesday just before 7 a.m., eager to drop their children off for the first day of school.

Students from preschool to freshmen started school on Wednesday, while high schoolers start school Thursday.

But as parents and students share excitement over a return to a hopefully normal school year, there is one new big rule for a small electronic device.

Cell phones are banned for the first time, in a unique district-wide restriction for the personal devices. 

Superintendent for Lewiston Public Schools Jake Langlais called it a way to avoid distractions school systems nationwide have faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Cellphone use restrictions approved by Lewiston School Committee

"It's really about that coaching perspective, we want students to be successful when they get into the workplace, but we want them to be successful here first as well," Langlais said. "Where we have had two years of disruptions, it's important to have no distractions so we can get back on track."

For students younger than high school, they can't use cell phones at all and they must be stored in their backpack or locker. For high schoolers, they can have their cell phone with them, but can only use it when class is not in session, according to Langlais.

"We had a lot of feedback on the policy... I think some people worry about being able to contact their kids," Langlais said. He added the school can always contact kids if parents need them, and sometimes faster if cell service is disrupted.

On the first day outside of Lewiston Middle School, parents shared their opinions on the ban.

"I think my son should have his cell phone on him but just not [be] disruptive in class," Dashawn Jackson, a father of a seventh grader, said.

RELATED: 'Substantial' need for ed techs, bus drivers as Maine schools struggle to hire before school starts

"It makes more sense to ban them inside of school. Don't use your phone during class, so, completely understandable," Josh Whitaker, a father of a sixth grader said.

"It's not exactly right, but it is what it is," Tyrus McCarthy said, whose daughter is in seventh grade.

Students attending Lewiston Middle School had opinions as well.

Jacob Campbell, who is starting his first day of seventh grade, said he mostly agrees with the ban.

"I think that during [class] when they're teaching you shouldn't have your phone out, but when you have your work done you should be able to have your phone," Campbell said.

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