The Horry County Board of Education revealed a new data web page and other information Monday night relating to how the district hopes to move forward in getting students safely back into schools on a more regular basis.
“I’m in my 36th year of being an educator, and I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope to never see anything like it again,” said Horry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey, referring to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on how schools function.
The new HCS COVID-19 dashboard will show current COVID-19 cases in schools in the county, as well as historical cases. Once a case has been on the dashboard for seven days as current, those numbers will then move to the historical data set. The data will be updated each weekday by 4 p.m., Maxey said.
The new HCS COVID-19 dashboard is available HERE.
“It’s as realtime as we can get,” Maxey said, noting that included on the new data page is a tab that will have the most recent S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Disease Activity Report information.
“Certainly there is value in the DHEC report, but it is also important to use local resources,” Maxey said.
Data collection for the new web page began Sept. 4, according to Maxey. He also noted that HCS Dashboard data may differ from the SCDHEC report, which is generated two times per week for South Carolina schools.
Maxey also shared that DHEC released new guidelines Monday regarding the use of plexiglass in classrooms. That new guidance says students would not be considered close contacts when appropriate plexiglass was used and students were at least three feet apart, instead of six, as well as wearing masks.
The full guidance can be seen HERE.
“Plexiglass does not serve as a substitute to mask-wearing,” Maxey read from the guidelines.
Installing the plexiglass would enable HCS to get more children in a classroom together safely, Maxey said.
The plexiglass would need to surround the three edges of the students’ desks and extend a foot above the child’s head, in addition to some other acceptable configurations.
Chief of Support Services Daryl Brown said that the district hopes to buy plexiglass in bulk through the S.C. Department of Education, as that usually is more cost-effective.
Brown also said they would be requesting help from the state in terms of funding for the project.
Brown noted that Charleston County spent around $6 million on plexiglass for their classrooms, and he expects the cost for HCS would hover around the $4.5 million mark.
District 1 board member Russell Freeman mentioned the idea of possibly phasing in the plexiglass with elementary students first, then moving to the older ones in phases.
Brown and Maxey said that is a possibility that is not set in stone, but the board and district plan to discuss.
“We want to do everything we can to get them in school, but get them in school in a safe environment,” Maxey reiterated.
Maxey said he decided to share all of the new information in light of the many emails and messages he was getting from parents.
Board chairman Ken Richardson said earlier Monday that there’s no way they can put all children back in school right now and still meet the six-feet requirement for social distancing that is one of the most-mentioned things in DHEC’s guidelines.
Maxey said much of the same during Monday's meeting, saying that the district analyzed some area classrooms and estimated that some classrooms could only safely hold only 14 students and keep social distancing regulations intact.
“If DHEC … wants to change their guidelines, the minute we think it’s safe, we’re going to put these kids back,” Richardson said Monday afternoon. “The problem is, there’s a lot of people who are impatient, and they think the board is sitting around doing nothing. I’ve never been on a board working as hard as we are working. We’re getting a lot done and they don’t see it [behind the scenes]. What they want is the end result and we can’t give that to them just yet.”
According to the HCS dashboard that uses DHEC guidelines to decide in what format students will attend school, HCS students will be attending in a hybrid fashion through the week of October 12. This means face-to-face in the classroom for two days of the week, and distance learning for the other three days.
The DHEC Disease Activity Report released this Thursday will decide how school will look the week of October 19.
In other board news:
The Board of Education unanimously voted to object to the proposed amendment to the City of Myrtle Beach’s Oceanfront Redevelopment Plan, saying they do not consent to the use of the District’s incremental taxes to finance the City’s redevelopment projects. The board authorized Superintendent Maxey to notify the City of Myrtle Beach of their objection before a public hearing that is set for October 27, 2020 at 9 a.m.
Check back with My Horry News for more developments.