HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The Horry County School bells are officially ringing.
It was the first day of classes for all Horry County students and staff on Tuesday, whether they were in a classroom or virtual learning while at home.
Socastee Elementary School Principal Krista Finklea told WMBF News, the first day back to school for students, adjusting to a new way of learning during a pandemic, was nothing short from great.
Finklea says about 650 students are enrolled in the brick and mortar traditional learning program, which is divided into either Group A, Group B or Group C categories. She estimated that the remaining 248 students are enrolled in the virtual learning program.
About 360 Socastee Elementary students participated in face-to-face instruction today under the Group A and Group G categories. On Wednesday, Group B and Group G will attend the school for the traditional learning program.
Finklea said the teacher’s safety procedures for keeping students safe during face-to-face instruction went as planned without any major issues, crediting the statewide ‘LEAP Days’ for helping some staff members get more prepared for the big day back.
Finklea added that students enrolled in the 'brick and mortar’ traditional learning program kept their six-feet of distance throughout the school building and wore their masks when instructed. She said the kids were given ‘mask breaks,’ but only when the teacher deemed safe, which required students to remain seated at their desks, six-feet apart.
She said the arrival and dismissal process was quick because staff members were prepared to meet kids outside to guide them to the classroom, while parents followed the safety guidelines and stayed inside of their car.
“Parents will drive up and kids will have to let themselves out of the car,” Finklea said. “For the occasional student that can’t get the door open, our staff have gloves, extra masks, we have all that extra stuff on a table outside so we can easily grab it. The cars are spaced out six-feet apart so once kids get out, they just single file go into the building. We didn’t have any issues with that. Unfortunately, we couldn’t let any parents into the building. Those are the personal small things I think [kids and parents] miss. I know a lot of parents were sad they couldn’t walk their kids down."
Finklea said the pick-up and drop-off process went quicker compared to this time last year, because of the number of students on the campus.
“We only had half the kids so that makes a big difference,” Finklea said. “I think we’re a bit more fortunate than a middle or high school because they have a few more systems and procedures in place for things like backpack checks, metal detectors.”
The principal will be making a few changes on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, students sat outside their classrooms six-feet apart, as they waited to be picked up by their guardians and taken to the pick-up area.
After monitoring the progress with the car pick-up system, Finklea feels comfortable bringing the kids into the main hallways, a bit closer to the pick-up spot.
“I didn’t want to try it today because you don’t know if it’s going to work,” Finklea said. “You don’t know how many kids you’re going to have [inside the school]. So there’s a lot of little adjustments we’ll make based on today to make tomorrow go smoother. Obviously, I’ll need to check in with my teachers because there the ones really running the show and doing the work and I’ll have them tell me what things worked and what things didn’t work.”
The principal said they’re also working out a few bumps for students in the Group E category, for virtual learning.
“I think it’s taken a little bit longer for our virtual teachers to get their class list and get their virtual classes actually uploaded into the devices," Finklea said. "[We’re asking parents for] a little bit of patience, especially for elementary schools, this is new territory for us. There are some things we’ve had to work through, especially with virtual learning.”
Finklea said staff will continue to make changes in the upcoming days, to ensure students have a successful school year during these uncertain times.
“This is because we love them like our own kids,” Finklea said. “So we’re going to do everything we can to keep them safe. We’re happy to have their kids back.”