POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - Students and parents at a Pocatello elementary school are complaining that 3-week-old rules to control noise border on draconian and have turned the place into a "prison camp."
Since last month, a device dubbed a yakker-tracker hangs in the Indian Hills Elementary School cafeteria.It changes color as noise levels escalate: green for quiet, then blinking yellow - and finally bright red, tripping an alarm when kids' voices rise above allowed decibel levels.When the siren sounds, the students are required to be silent for two minutes.

"I feel like I'm in a prison camp," Indian Hills sixth-grader Riley Meuer told Principal Kent Hobbs at a meeting Wednesday to gather feedback on the new policy.
The kids' concerns highlight overcrowding - and rancor over attempts to grapple with it - in Pocatello's School District 25 grade schools, which parents, teachers and administrators say are bursting at the seams.
Indian Hills is the largest school in the district after drawing students from nearby schools shuttered two years ago. Other schools are near capacity, administrators say, and tight budgets make a remedy difficult.
"We definitely have to have more capacity in the elementary schools," Hobbs said.

In addition to the yakker-tracker, the new rules forbid students from talking in the lunch line. Each class is assigned tables in the cafeteria, and once students sit down at the table, they are not allowed to get up until they are dismissed to leave.They are not allowed to go back into the building once they've left.

Fifth-grade student Scotty Lyens collected 56 signatures in a plea to reverse the lunch limits.
"We don't want it to be total anarchy in the lunchroom," Meuer said. "But that yakker-tracker thing - I don't think you should have a machine control us."
Hobbs said he knows some don't like the rules, but he has to keep hallway noise down and doing it without radical measures isn't easy.
The school is housed in buildings whose common areas were originally built for 200 students.

PTA President Pam Stevensen said she's collected more than 250 signatures on a petition she hopes will illustrate parents' frustrations with what she sees as an overcrowded and understaffed school.
Stevensen wants more help in the cafeteria, where there are just two lunch workers serving the students.

Sometimes they enlist the help of teachers, volunteers and even the principal to get the food out on time.
Sherrie Joseph, a school volunteer and mother of three Indian Hills students, is sympathetic to the overcrowding, but believes the new noise-control rules go too far.
"If the students are kept from talking to each other in the halls, and punished for making noise in the gymnasium they also call the cafeteria, they could lose out on their time to play, socialize and unwind," she said.







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