LOUISVILLE, Ky.  (WDRB) -- Students in eight Jefferson County, Ky., public high schools will be able to use their cell phones in class starting later this year.

The Jefferson County school board approved the plans at its meeting Monday night.

The unanimous vote will allow students at Ballard, duPont Manual, Fairdale, Iroquois, Seneca, Southern, Valley and Waggener high schools to use their phones or similar technology for research in the classroom, with teacher supervision.  The students' parents must give permission; students must follow strict rules for access determined by each school.  

The eight schools asked the school board for waivers from the current JCPS ban on cell phone use within schools.  They argued the technology would help students' learning and improve their engagement in class.

Superintendent Donna Hargens told the board the current JCPS computer network can accommodate the students' access to the Internet.  There is enough bandwidth and other support available, Hargens said.

The district will instruct teachers on use of the devices in class and provide a list of recommended applications.  Student use will be considered "a privilege," Hargens said.

The schools will be part of a one-year "pilot" project, the results of which will help the school district and board determine whether to expand the program in the future.

JCPS will not be responsible for individual students' data overages.  That is one reason for the parental permission," Hargens said.

The schools will also ensure all students have access to a cell phone or similar device to do their research in class.  School board members had expressed reservations that some students could not afford the devices.  

"All students will be included and have the equipment that they will need," said school board chair Diane Porter.  "Technology is moving along, and we should allow our students to do so."

Seneca High School history and psychology teacher Stephanie Anderson urged the board's approval.

Anderson said she welcomed the opportunity to teach her students how to use the devices "in an appropriate manner."  Anderson described one such use:  Looking up words in an online dictionary during a writing assignment.  Students today are less likely to use a printed dictionary, Anderson said.  Other students might use the phones to take notes.

The phones give students "more tools," said Iroquois High School science teacher Charles Wade.  

Other teachers and principals have argued the phones' use would allow teachers to gauge how fast their students are learning key concepts.  One told the board it would be "doing a disservice" to students by not allowing their use in class.

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