Elementary schools can expect to have plexiglass installed around their classroom desks by November 22, according to Horry County Schools officials.
The phased $4 million installation, which was paid for by the South Carolina Department of Education, will begin at the elementary level on November 13, with most of the work being done on the weekends.
The use of plexiglass, according to new guidance from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, says that students could safely be three feet apart instead of six, while still wearing masks.
In early October, Superintendent Rick Maxey said that plexiglass would enable HCS to get more children in a classroom together safely, but that the installation would not serve as a substitute to mask-wearing.
The plexiglass will surround three edges of the students’ desks and extend a foot above the child’s head - there is no plexiglass behind the child's chair, as the back is open.
“We want to do everything we can to get them in school, but get them in school in a safe environment,” Maxey said in October.
According to Daryl Brown, chief officer of support services with HCS, the district has already received more than half of the expected plexiglass frames, and the district will be receiving two to four truckloads per day for the next ten days.
“There will be roughly 22,000 of those setups when we’re done,” Brown said, noting there would be roughly 110,000 pieces of plexiglass and frames.
The district has also partnered with a different company for the portion of the plexiglass frames that needed to be configured differently due to some schools using different table setups. These setups will begin to be installed around November 16, Brown said.
“Once we get done with elementary, we will immediately go into middle and high. One at a time,” Brown said, and hopes middle and high schools can begin installation before the holidays.
Maxey said last month that the district analyzed some area classrooms and estimated that without plexiglass, some classrooms could safely hold only 14 students and keep social distancing regulations intact.
DHEC guidelines for the use of plexiglass in schools can be found here.
The district decided on Oct. 19 to use their own COVID-19 dashboard information to determine school re-opening plans, and schools remain in a hybrid learning format until it is determined safe to return to five-day, in-person instruction.
The extent of COVID-19 spread will vary depending on the school, Maxey said in October, noting that instructional models for individual schools will be adjusted accordingly.
The district also intends to give parents five days of notice before a change in instructional models, and school officials reserve the right to use any local data in the future to decision-making.
As of Monday evening, the HCS COVID-19 dashboard shows a total of 194 historic cases in the district, with 14 current cases (nine students, five staff members).
In other board news
The board voted unanimously to spend $1,961,000 from the general unassigned fund to purchase approximately 35 acres in the Carolina Forest area to be used for a future school.
The land is located near Christy McAuliffe Street in the River Oaks area of U.S. 501.
Check back with My Horry News for updates.