HCS scouts conceptual designs for schools

Published: Apr. 12, 2014 at 10:40 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2014 at 11:27 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Movable glass walls, customized classrooms, and up-to-date technology could be shaping your student's learning here in Horry County. School board members just got back from a scouting trip to Texas, looking at 21st-century-design schools to build here.

Horry County School Board Chairman Joe Defeo explained a '21stcentury-design school' is a building created around technology and blended learning.

"Which means different approaches to teach children. They may switch from group or teams into a typical classroom mold. And the design works that way where you can have a section of the classroom with a shared area in between, and the shared area becomes part of the classroom," said Defeo after returning from the trip to Texas to scout possible building plans for Horry County.

This proposed building plan would take care of overcrowding in Horry County schools and would not change attendance lines. Defeo said multiple schools need to be replaced, including Socastee Elementary, Myrtle Beach Intermediate, and potentially St. James Middle School, Carolina Forest Middle School, Forestbrook Middle School and Myrtle Beach Middle School.

"For Myrtle Beach, we would move the students from the intermediate school, potentially, It is under discussion, into the middle school, and build a new middle school. That would prevent us from being overcrowded in the middle school and we build one school to solve two problems," he said.

The blueprints from the conceptual design schools could include moveable walls.

"When you do that and learning changes in 20 years, you can spend a small amount of money and move walls around - change the style of the classroom, change technology and continue on with the same school," said Defeo.

It could also allow teachers to create different work spaces for students and have walls made of glass.

"When you walk by the library, an administrator doesn't have to walk in to see what is going on. You walk by the library and see the entire library," Defeo explained.

On the topic of libraries, Defeo says these types of schools would change the textbook definition of what a library would be and incorporate more technology into a media room. Teachers would have more access to those laptops and tablets during lessons.

"You can go to any student and put them on your white board to see what they're doing," he added.

This plan is still in the discussion stages, but by planning now, Defeo hopes the board can budget the much-needed construction for new schools.

"I personally will not vote for taxes unless there is a referendum on it that people can vote and say 'yes that's an option,'" he said on the topic of raising taxes.

While it is not a decision, but simply a discussion over the possibility of a tax increase, Defeo said it could possibly be a low and temporary tax increase that could cost the average homeowner $20 to $25.

However, Defeo prefers to find an alternative way, and believes the design of the buildings the school board toured in Texas will end up saving money.

"If you have three or four classrooms with a shared area, you don't have to hire an additional aide to supervise it ," he explained.

With moveable glass walls, instructors could shape the classroom to have a shared area and because of the see-through walls, it would be easier to supervise.

In addition, the layout could mean a smaller school building with every room being used to its full potential.

"If we are able to give teachers a work room, we could easily make the schools 20 percent smaller with the same amount of classrooms," he said.

That could cut off 20 to 25 percent of the construction cost and end up saving millions of dollars.

The budget and proposed building plan will be discussed at the school board meeting next month.

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