Growing number of area students want to learn virtually as they head back to class

Back to School

A majority of students are going to be back in the classroom but there is a growing number of kids that want to learn virtually.

“I want it back to normal. I want school back to normal. How things were before COVID, before the pandemic where they were in school with their friends every day.”

Florence School District One wants students back in the classroom too.

“Virtual worked for us during a pandemic for safety reasons, but it’s not an ideal situation,” said Michelle McBride, Assistant Superintendent FS1 K-5.

Florence 1 Schools, one of the largest school districts in our area is not offering a K-12 virtual learning option this school year.

“Even though virtual fit some of our households, for a large majority of our households they are working parents, and not having someone to supervise and support students in a virtual environment was very difficult,” McBride said.

For Raydeenya Morrison and her four kids in Horry County Schools virtual learning wasn’t all bad.

“I was able to sit there with them sometimes, especially with my two boys with autism, and see exactly what they were learning over the computer and i can see what exactly they were taking from it,” Raydeena Morrison said.

While the virtual learning environment did work, now that schools are back open Morrison wants all of her children back to brick and mortar.

“I just want them to get back into the classroom to have that face-to-face interaction with the teachers and with other students and to make sure that they’re getting the services that they need,” said Morrison.

While more parents like Morrison are comfortable sending their kids back into the classroom, Horry County Schools said it still needs to offer a full K-12 virtual schooling option.

“We’re at about 1,600 students right now, which is still a really good size school,” said Lindsay Lennon, K-12 Virtual Director for Horry County Schools.

Lennon said they’ve been working hard since March of 2020 to revamp the curriculum.

HCS said its virtual students get the same education as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

One big change, 95% of its teachers are solely dedicated to online teaching.

“I think for some older kids, it provides them with an opportunity to work or be really involved in extracurricular activities. There are so many reasons why the virtual environment could work for students and families and it really can be tailored to almost anybody’s needs,” said Lennon.

While a majority of districts in our viewing area offer a virtual learning option, the state department of education says school districts are not required to.

Lawmakers capped the ones that do at 5% of overall district enrollment. The state also has seven virtual charter schools. One of which saw a spike in new students.

“Last year we were projected to go to about 2,500, 2,600 students and by Oct. 1, we were right at 5,000 kids,” said David Crook, Head of Cyber Academy of South Carolina.

Crook said some new students came to them in response to the pandemic, “There were a lot of families who did not want to send their kids to a brick-and-mortar school that didn’t have mask mandates, and there were a lot of families that just as emotionally didn’t want to send their kids to a brick and mortar that did have mask mandates.”

Enrollment numbers expected to stay at 5,000. Crook had to hire more teachers.

The K-12 statewide virtual school is gearing up for its 9th year. Crook said because of its years of experience students dealt with minimal learning loss at the height of the pandemic.

“You can see much more of what your child is working on and you can see the interaction with the teachers and you can really just have just a granular level of knowing what’s going on with your student throughout the day,” said Crook.

Now that brick and mortar schools have virtual capabilities, they can turn to that option if a student has to be out of school due to illness or in the event of severe weather days.

Educators believe it’s changing the landscape of learning for the future.

“I think ultimately that’s the answer that it’s not necessarily 100% virtual or 100% brick and mortar, I think in the middle is where everything’s going to gravitate towards,” said Crook.

“I don’t think education should be one size fits all. I think one of the things that makes Horry County such a strong place to learn and grow as a student is that we have such a variety of options for students and families to choose what’s best for them,” Lennon said.

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