AURORA | Students across Aurora are bringing more than just fresh outfits and sharpened pencils back to school this month.
In the two months that students have been on summer vacation, the digital phenomenon Pokemon Go has seeped into the lives — and data plans — of as many as 100 million people, according to several recent media reports.
Created by software developer Niantic, Pokemon Go was launched July 6 and encourages players to wander to various public locales in an attempt to catch digital monsters that appear on players’ screens.
But how schools in Aurora handle the craze, which has been credited as the reason for several distracted deaths around the country this summer, largely remains to be seen.
The Cherry Creek School District has not yet received any complaints or disturbances tied to Pokemon Go, according to Tustin Amole, spokeswoman for the district. However, Amole said that the district has provided principals with materials that explain how to strip a school, or an area near a school, of “Pokestop” or “gym” status. Such locations can attract hoards of players who are keen on training or upgrading their digital pets.
Amole added that standard protocols pertaining to prohibitions on cell phones in the classroom are also being enforced.
“Students cannot use (cell phones) during class time — that’s the policy for all of our schools,” she said. “So if there’s a Pokemon in your Algebra II class, well then too bad.”
Aurora Public Schools has also gone without any complaints regarding Pokemon Go so far this school year, according to APS spokeswoman Patti Moon. APS also has a ban on the use of cell phones and electronic devices during the school day for students in grades K-12. Regis Jesuit High School is more guarded from potential Pokemon distractions, such as nearby Pokestops, because the school sits on private property, according to Regis Spokeswoman Charisse Broderick King. Pokestops and gyms can only exist in public areas. Regis also blocked the Pokemon app on its wireless network.
Pokemon Go won’t be completely absent from Aurora classrooms this year, however, as select educators have already started to leverage the game for virtual lessons. Gwynn Moore, a technology instructor at Aurora Frontier P-8, said she’s utilized the game in her video game and programming class to demonstrate how augmented reality and trigger images — the graphics that make the digital creatures appear in real-life landscapes — function.
“And it helps kids think past World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto — things with a lot of violence — about how different video games can work,” Moore said.
Abel Negussie, a junior at Rangeview High School, said that the game will likely only affect the view around the Aurora high school — not in classrooms or hallways.
“Because Pokemon Go is such an interactive and adventure-based game, it cannot be played (at least effectively) in a classroom or in the commons,” Negussie wrote in a Twitter message. “On the other hand, after school hours/during off hours, are a perfect time to go Pokemon hunting in the open fields around Rangeview.”
Dat Duong, a senior at Aurora Central High School and avid Pokemon Go player, said that he’s managed to play during the school day — but only during passing periods and other free times — since school began for sophomores, juniors and seniors at Central on Aug. 9. Duong, who prefers to go by Alex, said he’s not particularly competitive with the game, but that the amount of time he spends playing is prolific. During a trip to southern California this summer, Duong estimated that he played for 12-15 hours per day. The high school student has three different accounts in the game, one of which is at level 38 — just two steps away from achieving the highest level in the game.
“I really like Pokemon, and I’ve been playing different versions since I was little,” Duong said. “When the game came out I downloaded it and played for fun. It’s become a habit now.”
Duong said that he believes he is one of the most successful Pokemon players at Aurora Central.
“I’m holding the number-one spot in the school right now,” he said. “I went around asking almost everybody and I just seem to be at the highest level.”