Like dozens of other large city school districts, the Dallas Independent School District grapples with safety concerns in its portable classrooms set up to handle the overflow of students.

But thanks to a donation of 500 cellular phones and 360,000 minutes of local air time from Southwestern Bell, the city’s problem was just made easier.

Southwestern Bell donated the phones to improve communication and safety on the district’s campuses. On March 23, teachers at W.E. Greiner Middle School became the first in Dallas to be outfitted with the phones to connect them to either the school office or a 911 operator in case of emergency.

“We have 49 portable classrooms, and communication is an issue,” Principal Lynn Dehart said. “If teachers have any kind of problem or emergency or if they just need to contact a parent or an administrator, this is a means to do it.”

Dehart said the phones can also be used as a discipline tool.

“If a child is acting up and you pick up the phone and call their parent, it has a real impact on them,” he said.

More than 130 other elementary, middle, and high schools in the Dallas area will receive phones and airtime as well.

“This was a long time coming,” said teacher Ann Corcoran.

Before having a phone, Corcoran said she had no immediate access to the front office or school security. “Now that’s solved with the push of a button,” she said.

Having phones in the classroom is not a first, but it’s a first for the portable buildings, said Southwestern Bell Wireless spokeswoman Leigh Anne Crow.

Other schools around the state–including some in Austin, Houston, Wichita Falls and Beaumont–participate in Classlink Texas, Crow said. As part of the program, various wireless service providers around the state award schools with five phones each plus 150 minutes a month for general use.

Joey Lozano, a spokesman for the Texas Education Agency, said larger districts with safety concerns or more portable classrooms would likely benefit from using the phones.

Ms. Crow said she hopes the idea of phones in the classroom takes off in other districts around the state.

“We’re hoping the industry will see this as an opportunity to help with education and really rally and get behind this,” she said.

Dallas Independent School District

http://www.dallas.isd.tenet.edu/

Southwestern Bell

http://www.swbell.com/

Texas Education Agency

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/