Twice in two years the referendum for more money to build new schools or expand current ones was voted down by the people of Beaufort County.
That issue will come up again on ballots in November.
While we don’t know yet what projects will be included, May River High School will be one of them.
Until the money starts coming in, educators at one of the District’s newest schools are rolling with the punches.
In the midst of the mass of students at May River High School, you can see one figure rolling a cart full of supplies to a classroom.
In all 37 teachers, last semester and 38 teachers this semester all don’t have classrooms. All they have is that cart, and a cubicle in the back to call their own.
“If a student needs a band-aid or we need something for class, markers or a ruler, then I have to take everything out,” explains Rhonda Platt, May River teacher.
In just four years, May River has grown to 1350 students in 59 classrooms. But there are 73 teachers ready to educate, they just don’t have a place to do it full time.
“I would rather teach than organize my paperwork,” said Platt
“Me personally, I could be doing a lot more if I had my own classroom,” said Anne Crockett, May River teacher.
“Its almost like I don’t have time for them that they need,” explains Platt.
Anne Crockett says she loses time with students every day. Both before and after class. All because she needs to be mobile.
“You just have to pick it up, clean it up and move on,” said Crockett. “If the cart was the only variable between me having a room and not having a room, I would go for the room, hands down.”
“It adds an element of stress to an already difficult job as teachers,” explains Joseph Bornscheuer, May River Principal.
As May River’s Principal, Joe Bornscheuer knows its a difficult situation for teachers and students. One of the biggest issues is safety. In the event of a school shooting or disaster, a teacher is supposed to protect their room and lock down their students. But for the floating teachers, they end up with the students instead, searching for a safe place to be.
“I believe that our culture and what we’ve established is healthy and thriving enough that people have a great excitement about coming to this school, but as a parent, I would wonder about the intangibles of safety.”
“We’ve had to teach our students in those scenarios where we’ve had a floating teacher,’ said Bornscheuer. “That teacher becomes one of the masses just looking for a safe space.”
Safety and flexibility for teachers are important. Teachers say the students have been helpful but also left wanting more. Platt says she loses 5-10 minutes a class. She gets “frazzled”, and more worried about setting up a classroom than the personal one on one time high schoolers need.
“Its almost like I don’t have time for them that they need,” said Platt. “Especially with teenagers, they need to have a teacher who has some time, time to listen to them.”
While Bornscheuer says everyone is adapting to the “new way of life” at May River. He admits he has lost teaching candidates who want a classroom, not a cart.
“My pool of applicants may only be 3-4 people, where 10 years ago I might have had 30. So even losing one when it’s only 1 of 4 is a bigger impact.”
“If they have never known anything else, then living life on the cart will just be their way of life. But having been in a classroom and having my own classroom for many years, it was a huge change for me,” said Crockett.
With the student population expected to grow again next year, the Principal knows the challenges will keep rolling in.
“As a parent of a child coming to May River I would be very excited and I would also be very engaged but I would also work to get the work out about these confining situation because they directly affect all of us..”
“My concern as we continue to grow and we don’t have a chance to alleviate the overcrowdedness, then we can’t continue to grow the culture that we are proud of because its a challenge to manage the most basic pieces of what we do.”
May River High is expected to add about 150 more students next year, which would make 1500 altogether.
The school is only 4 years old, but already it’s planned for 8 portable classrooms next year, still hoping for expansion in 2020 or beyond.