THE BRONX - The new year ushered in a Department of Education rule banning cell phones in schools, despite the City Council overriding the mayor's measure.

The cell phone ban, backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is largely symbolic. The DOE has also delayed a plan to build coin-operated cell phone lockers outside schools. The project is now expected to be completed by September 2008.

Many students say they have no plans to pay to store their phones when they can put them on vibrate and keep them out of sight for free.

"She travels in the evening by herself," says parent Winifier Jackson. "She need to keep [the phone] with her."

Some teachers support the ban, saying sending text messages in class has now replaced the equally disruptive practice of passing notes.