Should students have access to better cell service on school grounds?

Kayla Baltazar, Staff Reporter

The spin of a loading arrow, the run of a pixelated dinosaur, a line of text saying, “Sorry! Page not found,” all result in eye rolls and groans from students as well as the complaints one hears in the hallways– claims of cell service being bad, of getting no signal or of not receiving reception in a certain room. 

   In today’s world, technology is a huge factor in our lives. We use it to research, to entertain and to communicate. When we don’t necessarily have easy access to it, it feels more than just a little inconvenient. 

   It’s hard to get good cell service throughout MHS. Phones in certain parts of the school load as slowly as snails– or sometimes don’t even load at all. Chromebooks may run just fine, but hardly anywhere do phones run at the same speed, which is a pain for many students.

   “The cell service in school is spotty at best– some days I can get service, and other days I can’t,” Emma Vickerman, senior, said in a Mustang survey sent out to Mundelein staff and students in February. “It can get frustrating when I need to contact someone, and I’m not able to.”

   In this survey, 242 of MHS’s staff and students’ answers were received when asked about their opinions on the cell service at this school. When asked if MHS should fix/invest in better cell service, 206 of the respondents (85.1 percent) said that yes, it needs to be improved. 

   While the majority of respondents thought that the reception could be better, there are still some concerns with having students’ phones work faster as in the survey 14.9 percent of the takers thought that the service didn’t need to be worked on. 

   In the same survey, several staff members noted that the slow connection in the school might help people.

   “When a signal is not available, it can encourage some (myself included) to focus better.  I try to keep my cell phone in a drawer or in my bag anyway,” English Teacher Mark Landuyt said. “So, in essence, having a worse signal makes it easier to stow it away.  From a student perspective, I believe setting phones aside should be a more common practice than it currently is. Something that could encourage phone use during classes should be avoided.”

   While that is a valid concern, it is now, as high school teenagers, that students should practice the valuable life skill of self-control. High school is where students can begin to develop good habits by practicing control through shutting off their phones or leaving the devices in their bags. In the future, students might not get the chance to develop those habits before they’re needed in a professional work environment.

   “The students who care know to pay attention in their classes. If a student is too distracted, why is the whole student body punished?” Gianna Horcher, junior, said.

   Along with that, in a 2022 article written by Harvard University titled “Devices in the Classroom,” the Derek Bok Center cites boredom as the number one reason that students go on their phones during class: “Boredom is one of the main reasons that students report using a digital device.”

   The article suggested a good way to maintain engagement is for instructors to use humor, proximity to students and a variety of material. When students are engaged in the lesson, their phone is the last thing on their minds. Having students engaged in the lectures should help them learn and absorb information better in general.

   If lack of self-control is faltering, then teachers should be allowed to set up a plan within their classes to limit cell phone use.  Some schools allow teachers to have a spot at the front of the classroom where students can put their phones to limit the distraction, or teachers are allowed to have a set of rules in place that can result in the students’ phones being taken away. 

   Another complaint students voiced about the cell service at the school were rumors involving cell phone blockers throughout the school.

   “I have heard rumors that there are service blockers,” Junior Jill Kennicott said. 

   However, Technology Trainer Kathryn Serby confirmed that those rumors are false.

   “[It] is not true,” Serby said. “We do have– you could call them– kind of dead spots, in this school, because of the construction. The concrete blocks that we have as part of the construction make it difficult for cell service to come through.”

   While it may not be the school’s fault that the building itself prevents reception, Serby also noted that the service might not be something the school is focused on improving.

   “I don’t know if that’s something the school would invest in because they’re more focused on the education of the students, and the wireless connectivity they have for their Chromebooks and their educational devices rather than [for] a personal device.”

   However, this school should look into trying to improve the cell service, as the poor connections affect students’ day-to-day lives.

   The biggest reason many students feel the need to have better signal is communication, especially in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, we live in a time where safety in school can be questioned, and many want as many blankets of security as possible. Students should be able to text their parents when they need to, but poor service can get in the way of that.

   “In case [of] an emergency, we can’t text or call anyone because the service is so bad,” Senior Kendal Teper said. 

   Teper added that she experienced the worst service in the C-wing and in the A-wing, specifically the basement.

   Many students also noted that service is important to stay in contact with loved ones in case of family emergencies.

   “On a daily basis, my parents text me about certain family issues, plans, or other important things in which it becomes difficult for me to answer them,” Anjeli Modi, senior, said.

   Some also mentioned that not being able to receive messages from family causes stress and makes them distracted during class.

   “I only get service in some areas of the school, and it’s really inconvenient when I need to call or text one of my family members,” Junior Haya Fakhoury said. “I have a disabled grandmother at home that I get updated on every day, and when I don’t have service, I can’t get the updates, and I start to worry. When I start to worry, I can’t completely focus on my schoolwork.”

   Not only is communication vital during an emergency, reception is needed to simply communicate every day plans on a regular basis. 

   Many students stay at the school for hours after regular hours or are even in the school on weekends. With the poorer service, it gets hard for many to communicate with parents or friends about such points of concern as car rides, schedules or updates/cancellations of events. 

   “I had no cell service, and my brother had texted me where he was going to pick me up after school,” Charles Fisher, freshman, said. “I did not get the text message due to there being no service, and I walked to the wrong place to be picked up.”

   Phones are an essential factor of our lives. They are quick and easy to bring out and use unlike a Chromebook or desktop, and overall they store most of the apps students use to communicate with each other and loved ones. Without the service to help this technology run, it’s hard to do these foundational tasks.

   “Like it or not, cell phones are a part of our lives,” Jesse Piland, economics and history teacher, said. “They give us news, connect us with friends and loved ones, and communicate with our educational software. It needs to be better.”