Horry County Schools, builder disagree on new glass-filled school’s security

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Schools and the builder of its five new glass-filled schools agree: the buildings will require a different approach to school security. First Floor Energy Positive and the district, however, haven’t agreed on a security plan.

News13 toured Ten Oaks Middle School in Carolina Forest in May. While traditional schools would likely have concrete-block walls separating classrooms from the hallway, the new schools have floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

“I think we have to rethink the way we think about school safety when we do buildings like this,” said Robbie Ferris, the CEO of First Floor Energy Positive.

Ferris told News13 you won’t hide in the schools if there’s a shooter or some other intruder. “You can’t hide in a glass building,” Ferris said. “What you’re going do is you’re going to look for what are the advantages of the building.”

Ferris said he recently met with a “SWAT team commander” who was encouraged by the building’s openness. “He said what he looks for is a building he can walk in, instantly see everything that’s going on, and go put the threat to an end.”

Among other things, First Floor suggested using a fog cannon if there’s an intruder, according to the district’s director of facilities, Mark Wolfe. “We did not say ‘yes’ to fog cannons,” Wolfe said.

Ferris explained window blinds for the classrooms aren’t viable and bulletproof film for all of the glass is “very expensive.”

The district turned down a plan that included bulletproof film on the glass of the front office area and a wall near the front of the building, according to Ferris. Wolfe told News13 First Floor’s original design included the film, but last week, Ferris told the district it would cost extra money.

District staff and Ferris also don’t agree on who decided on glass walls.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Ferris said. “I think it’s a great idea. I’m excited that I had the opportunity to design these buildings, but unfortunately, it wasn’t my idea.”

Wolfe, however, said the design was provided by First Floor. “They deviated from the conceptual designs that we had, the floor plans, completely redid those.” The district talked with First Floor about reducing the amount of glass, but First Floor decided against it, according to Wolfe.