• Daley and Marlin arrange the desktop protectors to demonstrate h
  • Couple Margie Marlin and Neil Daley demonstrate how a desktop pr

Arvada’s Neil Daley was developing clear plastic shields as protectors for patients while they were lying in bed. But, when he turned it on its side, he wondered whether it might have another use.

He sent a picture of it to his girlfriend, Idaho Springs’ Margie Marlin, and asked whether they could use something like this in her preschool classroom for the 2020-21 academic year.

She responded, “You just solved a big problem for my classroom.”

For the past month, Daley and Marlin have been developing the desktop protectors with Daley designing and producing them and Marlin gaining input from the Clear Creek School District on applicability.

In addition to the four Marlin plans to have in her classroom at Carlson Elementary, Superintendent Karen Quanbeck said the district will likely purchase desktop protectors for elementary school teachers and special service providers.

Marlin clarified that the desktop protectors aren’t meant to replace other methods of preventing COVID-19 spread, such as wearing masks, but are simply another tool to use in addition to them.

She added that they could be used for peer-to-peer, educator-to-student and small-group scenarios.

Daley, the president of Englewood’s Image Tek, works in plastic machining and fabrication. The desktop protectors can come in any shape or size, and are made of polycarbonate that’s durable, flexible and lightweight.

The current design — which is about 19 inches tall, 14 inches across and 16 inches on the side — has a sneeze guard at the top and a cutout at the base so people can pass things to each other without going around or over the protector.

Because he only designed the prototype a few weeks ago, he was unsure how long it’d take to make them en masse. However, he guessed his company could make about 50 a day.

Once Daley developed the prototype, Marlin showed it to fellow educators, including Quanbeck, and asked for input.

Quanbeck said there’s a lot of potential for classroom use, and it’s another level of protection, especially in instances where mask-wearing is impossible or difficult, such as eating or when mouth movements are crucial for learning. She added that the district purchased clear masks for the same reason.

“It’s a fantastic idea that came out of a need,” Quanbeck said of the desktop protectors. “I love the fact that one of our educators and community members saw this thing that was designed for another purpose and thought it would help kids.”

In this time of uncertainty, Daley and Marlin said they wanted to contribute and collaborate.

“We wondered: ‘What can we bring to the table?’” Daley said. “I hope it sparks new ideas. …We want to make things happen and be part of the change.”

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-567-4491 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com.