AYNOR, S.C. (WMBF) - Schools in Horry County are now one step closer to implementing five days of face-to-face instruction for “brick-and-mortar” students, by putting up plexiglass barriers inside the classrooms.
Officials with Horry County Schools said the district is starting off with elementary schools before installing the barriers inside the middle schools. High school campuses will be among the last to receive them.
So far, Aynor Elementary School is the only location that has plexiglass installed in its classrooms, with others being installed at South Conway Elementary, Green Sea Floyds Elementary and Loris Elementary.
Aynor Elementary Principal Reggie Gasque said the installation process started the weekend before Thanksgiving and it was finished in time for students when they returned from break on Monday.
Gasque said layouts vary by grade level but allow for students to have personal space with the glass safely separating them from each another.
“We are the first school in Horry County to have the installation completed,” Gasque said. “[That includes the] plexiglass installation for child development and kindergarten classrooms that have [plexiglass on tables that divide them] rather then individual student desks.”
He added that staff and students are adjusting well to changes throughout the semester, including the plexiglass.
“I was a little [unsure] of how students were going to react, [after] leaving school on Thursday and coming back with plexiglass in their classrooms [Monday], Gasque said. “I can honestly say they’ve adjusted well. We’ve had no issues. Instruction has been moving forward.”
The district hopes to have plexiglass inside all elementary schools later this month, with the goal of having five days of face-to-face instruction for students attending classes in person.
Gasque said the current layout for the classrooms takes into account students coming back to the campus for full-time face-to-face learning. He hopes the plexiglass leads to five days of face-to-face instruction soon.
“We are set up for all students to return five days and we’re eager [to do it],” Gasque said. “I look at this as a positive thing because this is a right step in the right direction towards getting our students in [full-time].”
Ashley Poston teaches first grade at Aynor Elementary, and said her students have been adjusting well to the new barriers around their desks.
“They are seriously fine,” she said. “It’s really funny how resilient children are. They wear their masks and adapted well. They feel safer because they get to be back in groups with their friends and they don’t have to be as spread out.”
Poston also said the barriers haven’t impeded her teaching methods, either.
“A little bit of glass is not going to separate me from my students,” she said. “I will get up on a chair, I’ll walk around. It hasn’t changed my teaching abilities at all.”
Gasque said he instructed all teachers to redesign their classrooms to suit their educational needs, as well as making a safe return to face-to-face instruction five-days-a-week.
“They had to consider two things that were on the top of my list,” he said. “Student safety in case of emergency drills and also [being able to ]take care of custodial needs in the classroom. I wanted to make sure students can exit the room if need be.”
Gasque said some teachers chose to set desks up in groups of four with the plexiglass, while others have chosen to keep the classroom layout in rows.
“It has not affected instruction as I can tell,” Gasque said. “It’s been just as effective as it was before the installation.”
Gasque also explained throughout the school day, teachers will be doing some cleaning and sanitizing. He said custodial staff will continue to come in to sanitize and cleans the spaces at the end of the day.
The district said right now, they don’t know how soon full-time face-to-face learning will begin.
“Hopefully all [brick-and-mortar students] come back [five days] in January,” Poston said. “That’s the goal.”
The district also wants to let parents know that their students’ classrooms may look different compared to others. School leaders said teachers will make the final decision about what the layout will look like for students in their individual classrooms.
Parents still have an option to change their child’s learning program ahead of the spring semester. Click here for more information and deadlines for applications.