NEW YORK (AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to lift a longtime ban on cellphones in New York City public schools, ending a widely unpopular practice and bringing the city in line with other large school districts.

Administration officials said de Blasio planned to announce the policy change Wednesday afternoon in a news conference at a Brooklyn school. The new policy is expected to go into effect March 2.

(Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

The rule requiring cellphones and electronic devices like iPads to be left at home was put in place by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to address concerns about cheating, theft and the risk of students using their phones to summon a crowd for a fight. But the ban has never been enforced consistently.

At schools without metal detectors, many students bring phones and keep them stowed in their backpacks.

But most schools in the 88 buildings with metal detectors enforce the ban, and some students at those schools pay $1 a day to store their phones in a van or at a local business.

High school sophomore Jessica Flores dropped her phone off at a van parked in front of the Washington Irving campus in Manhattan on Wednesday and said she would be "really happy" to see the ban end. Junior Arthur Mosley said, "We're wasting money every day."

The ban has long been unpopular with parents including de Blasio, who has acknowledged that his own son, Dante, brings a phone to Brooklyn Technical High School. He promised to overturn it during his 2013 mayoral campaign

Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, said she welcomed the change in policy. "As parents, we will feel more comfortable knowing we can keep in contact with our children while they are commuting to school," Davids said.

Allowing phones inside a school but telling students to keep them stowed during class will mirror policies of other districts such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. Under the new rules, principals and teachers will decide how to handle cellphones in schools.

Ernest Logan, the head of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said in a statement, "Our collective priority is educating students in a safe and secure environment. We hope these new policies do not undermine that goal."

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