By Devin Fehely

SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) — The school day begins and ends at San Mateo High School with a brand new ritual — the unlocking of a magnetic pouch that stores students’ phones, effectively keeping the devices out their hands and hopefully off their minds during class.

“I think it makes students more present,” said Assistant Principal Adam Gelb. “I think that teachers will tell you that they can get more accomplished in a hour and a half. They can turn their backs on a group of students and let them work independently.”

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San Mateo High experimented with a pilot program last, using the same magnetic Yondr pouches to ban cell phone use during certain classes. The results, Gelb says, were positive enough to expand to program school-wide.

But for a generation of students who’ve grown up with smart phones, the change seemed radical and difficult to accept.

“It’s tempting to go on your phone and check who’s texting you. So, at first I didn’t want this at all,” said senior Rudy Barron.

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But after a period of adjustment, many students say they got used to being disconnected from their phones.

“The first few months, it’s going to be pretty weird — uncomfortable — because I’m used to having my phone,” said Andy Fang, a recent graduate who participated in the pilot program. “I feel like after a few months, it should probably be fine.”

School administrators say teachers can unlock the pouches in the event of an emergency, and they say it benefits students not only academically but socially as well.

“As a society, we’re way too connected to our phones and our devices and the internet in general. I think that getting away from that environment, even for a couple of hours, is healthy,” said student Ruby Reyes.

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