WHS installs vape detectors and phone hotels


Jack Tutun

Students use a phone hotel at the start of class

Jack Tutun and Ava Dreyer, Arts & Entertainment Editor and Co-Editor-In-Chief

For the first time, WHS has added vape detectors in many bathrooms and phone hotels to all classrooms. These changes were finalized over the summer and put into action on the first day of school, sparking many differing opinions from both students and faculty. 

   “The talk of vape detectors at WHS started early last year and the decision was made in the spring of 2022,” principal Paul Peri said.  

   The health and wellness teams at Weston Public Schools are responsible for adding the vape detectors at WHS as well as the middle school. Vape detectors have been installed in a number of high schools across Massachusetts that, like WHS, have seen an increase in vaping. 

   “It has been a problem over the course of the last few years that I have been here,” Peri said. “I think that vaping saw an uptick nationally during the pandemic.”

   Currently in the US, over 19 percent of high school students use electronic cigarettes according to the California Department of Education. The National Youth Tobacco Survey further determined that over 3.6 million high schoolers have used electronic cigarettes in the last thirty days. 

   Although these statistics show that many teens have used electronic cigarettes, the majority of students have not. Some of them support the addition of the vape detectors, at least in theory.

   “I think it is a positive development for the school,” said senior Holden Langenhagen. “But from what I believe, they are not in the right places…and they are difficult to trigger.”

   With a similar opinion to Langenhagen, senior Scott Crutchfield questions the long-term effectiveness of the vape detectors. “The vape detectors don’t really affect me, but I don’t think they will be worth it,” Crutchfield said. “I think that students will still find a way of getting around them.”

   Although some students believe that the vape detectors will prove to be ineffective, administrators have already obtained accurate information from them. 

   “Detectors have been triggered,” Peri said. “We have a system that alerts certain people in the building of the location and time that a detector is triggered.” 

   While students generally feel that the detectors will not be as effective as the administration hopes for them to be, some do agree that vaping is a problem. 

   “There are a lot of bathrooms I’ve walked into, smelling the smoke, and it bothers me a little bit,” Langenhagen said. 

   Students and faculty also have a range of reactions to another new initiative begun this fall in classrooms: the use of phone hotels. Perhaps not surprisingly, students are not completely in favor of this change, while many teachers feel it is positive.

   “I feel that the new phone hotels this year have a good purpose of removing distractions in classrooms,” junior Caroline Betty said. “However, I also think that considering we are in high school, we’re old enough to hold ourselves responsible and can manage a good balance.”

  Some seniors, many of whom are going to college or turning 18, feel the phone hotels contradict other demands put on them.

   “I don’t understand why the school expects us to act like adults while treating us more like children,” senior Coco Kouyoumjian said. “I believe in natural consequences. If you pick up your phone in class, the consequence is that you may miss a detail. I don’t think this is preparing us for adulthood.”

   Not all feelings towards these phone hotels are negative, though. History teacher Moncrieff Cochran has been using a phone hotel in his classroom for years.

   “I have always felt [phone holders have] made a difference in class, especially in the first quarter when it’s necessary to set guidelines and routines,” Cochran said. “The only difficulty is maintaining the routine throughout the school year. As long as I keep the class engaged, students in my classes have performed better and are more fully engaged in class without access to their phones.”

   Some classes even use the phone hotels as a way to form connections with teachers as well as prevent distractions.

  “In AP Psych, we have a different phone hotel that we can move around so we can say hello to students and go around and check in,” psychology and history teacher Kim Young said. “It feels more welcoming and collegial. It’s a really informal, easy way to connect with students at the beginning of class and help them in the process of staying focused.”

  Faculty members feel that accepting  phone hotels is not only helpful for individual classes, but for the school as a whole. 

   “Learning at the high school level is a partnership [among students]], the teacher, guardians, and administration,” Cochran said. “Students play an active role, which includes staying focused in class and participating. Phones can be a distraction, not just for the student using the phone, but also the teacher and other students in the class.  We all have to work together to achieve success, whatever that looks like for each individual student at WHS.”