“All students are back now,” – this is a statement that a year ago wouldn’t have meant much, but at the beginning of the 2020 school year was something few school districts could claim. In South Carolina, students of Anderson School District Four have been back in their classrooms for months, after the district was able to successfully introduce new safety precautions. Beyond constant and thorough cleaning, masks and social distancing, an integral part of these safety precautions was introducing sneeze guards throughout each school.
It’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses, organizations and schools to adapt to new challenges. Schools across the nation were forced to close before the end of the 2019-2020 school year once the pandemic set in, and even several months into it, some schools have yet to successfully reopen. In Anderson County, South Carolina, Anderson School District Four has successfully adapted and was able to welcome students back during the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. A big reason for this successful reopening can be credited to the hundreds of acrylic sneeze guards from Duncan-Parnell.
When the pandemic set in, Anderson School District Four’s Director of Operations, Rick Rogers, knew they would have to adapt. Rick’s responsibilities include managing the district’s school facilities, making capital improvements and maintaining school property. During the pandemic Rick refocused his efforts on exploring different options to create an environment capable of successfully welcoming back students and staff. Luckily, prior to the pandemic, the department was already in the process of upgrading cleaning procedures for the district’s athletic departments, so when the pandemic began creeping in, they were already ahead of the game. He knew it would only be a matter of time before students would need to transition from total distance learning to in-person learning, and he wanted to be prepared. Rick and his team spent the summer outfitting the district’s schools with new sanitizing stations, touchless paper towel dispensers and Professional Cordless Electrostatic Sprayers. However, the district knew they’d have to do more in order for students to return.
When Duncan-Parnell sales rep David Stubblefield reached out to Rick with a sneeze guard prototype, Rick saw the potential they had for rounding out the district’s new safety measures. The sneeze guard prototype was shared with other district leaders and they saw the potential as well.
This wasn’t Rick’s first time working with Duncan-Parnell. In a previous career, in the construction industry, Rick regularly used Duncan-Parnell’s Charleston branch as a resource for surveying equipment and printing. Although he wasn’t in the market for surveying supplies this time around, Rick had faith that Duncan-Parnell could provide a solution to this unique 2020 problem.
The district’s strategy was to prepare schools so students could safely return in the fall. Returning to the elementary schools to face to face instruction was especially prioritized, so they were set to receive the first round of sneeze guards. David worked with Rick to identify the types of sneeze guards that would work best in classrooms. A variety of sneeze guards were ultimately used, including trifolds which are ideal for enabling teachers to communicate with students one-on-one. Desk dividers were another critical type of sneeze guard used by District Four, making it possible for students to safely work at their desks when social distancing wasn’t possible.
Rick was understandably skeptical that the first installation could be completed in one day, but our team didn’t shy away from the challenge. Our team was able to install all of the sneeze guards needed across the district’s four elementary schools in just one day, so that the faculty and students could return on schedule. Now, all students in the district are back – elementary and middle school students have returned full time and high school students are back on an A/B schedule, “Without the desk dividers we would not have been able to do that in the elementary schools,” says Rick.
Rick wasn’t the only one thankful for the new sneeze guards, teachers and students were excited as well. For teachers, they appreciated the added layer of safety and the ability to see their students in person again. The younger students enjoy them for a different reason, “Students in the elementary grades love [the desk dividers] and see them as their little cubicles… Students have even hung up pictures and decorations,” says Rick.
Since the initial order, David has worked with Rick to provide additional sneeze guards including panels for outdoor concession stands and larger sneeze guards for the high schools are currently in the works. Rick, along with the rest of the staff of Anderson School District Four, are grateful for the ability to return somewhat to normal thanks to the sneeze guards and their partnership with Duncan-Parnell.