HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - For nearly two weeks, several parents requested to see images of Horry County Schools’ new plexiglass installations inside of the middle schools.
On Tuesday, our news team got an inside look at what those protective barriers look like inside of Forestbrook Middle School.
This comes as the campus prepares to phase into five days of face-to-face learning on Thursday for hundreds of brick-and-mortar students.
Principal Melissa Rutenberg said there approximately 699 students enrolled in the school’s traditional learning program. She said the plexiglass installations were put in place to help all students and staff members feel safer in the traditional learning setting.
She said the plexiglass layouts for Forestbrook classrooms will be either a traditional model or one that promotes collaborative learning, depending on the lesson for the day.
In a traditional format, the desks are spaced out in rows with plexiglass barriers installed around each desk. It allows students to work independently.
In models that allow students to work collaboratively, the protective barriers are installed around each desk, while still adhering to DHEC’s safety guidance. That means the desks are at least three-feet apart and students will engage in face-to-face learning safely, in the plexiglass environment.
“The key is to keep the students three-feet apart,” Rutenberg said. “More if possible. Yet the students are able to talk through the plexiglass or even share their computer screen or share notes or write on the plexiglass itself with dry erase markers to communicate back and forth. They are still required to wear masks. Plexiglass doesn’t mean masks go away. Masks stay in place all the time. This allows us to keep the students safely distanced while allowing them to collaborate.”
Kristine Evans, who teaches 8th-grade math at Forestbrook Middle School, said the plexiglass layout allows students to work and collaborate safely.
Some community members expressed concerns about whether the barriers would be a hindrance for students and teachers. But Evans disagrees.
She said the installations won’t interfere with learning, just makes it a bit safer during a pandemic.
“We’re in different times, things have changed, for me to get all my students back in the classroom is the most important thing to me,” Evans said. “When the students are at their desks, I’m not going to hover like I normally [did]. [Students] can talk to each other through the plexiglass they can hold up their Chromebooks, hold up their papers they’re working on. It’s very easy for me to come over, see through the plexiglass and help them that way.”
Rutenberg said her staff is fully prepared to enforce the safety measures when students return to the school grounds Thursday. If safety plans need to change, her team will be prepared.
“Our goal of course is no adjustments will not be needed come Thursday,” Rutenberg said. “But of course we as public educators, we’re flexible, that’s the name of the game. It’s about flexibility. So once we have all the students back in the classroom, if we need to adjust the way desks are setup to accommodate for social distancing, we’ll do that on Thursday as needed.”
“For the first time in a year, I’ll have all of my kids back in the classroom. That’s what we became teachers for,” Evans said.
In addition to Forestbrook Middle, Socastee and Myrtle Beach middle schools will also be welcoming back their brick-and-mortar students on Thursday.