HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools announced that 42 percent of its virtual students are failing one or more classes, causing them to examine the program for the 2022-2023 school year.

Communications Director Lisa Bourcier said the district is looking at its budget for the next school year and taking a look at the virtual program.

This is the second year for the HCS K-12 virtual program. The state Department of Education required all schools to create a virtual option for families during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program currently has 2,127 students; 1,622 students were enrolled in the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year.

HCS pulled data from the first semester and found that 42 percent — 686 — students were failing one or more classes. High-school students — those in grades 9-12 – make up the majority of those failing one or more classes.

Courtesy: Horry County Schools

Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said the number of failing students is alarming but said it’s not about the teachers and that they’re doing a great job.

“Every student is not equipped to work in a virtual environment,” Maxey said.

“Analyzing the data from the last year and a half, the students just have not been very successful in that program,” Bourcier said. “There’s a lot of students that have a difficult time working independently and staying on task and completing assignments.”

After looking at the data, administrators came up with three options for the future of the K-12 virtual program:

  • Continue it as is
  • Make adjustments by establishing parameters for enrollment
  • Dissolving it for the 2022-2023 school year.

If the virtual program is dissolved, board members asked what would become of the current virtual staff members, currently more than 100 workers. Because of current vacancies, Bourcier said the district would be able to find a position for them.

The district surveyed the reasoning for families choosing the virtual program for the current semester. Eleven percent said COVID-19 was the reason. Some of the other reasons include students enjoying learning at home; needing only one or two classes to graduate; allegations of bullying; and not liking the regular school setting.

The administration staff presented to the HCS Curriculum and Instruction Committee their recommendation of dissolving the virtual program starting with the 2022-23 school year. The reasoning was that the program was to provide an option for families who were not comfortable with their children returning to school during the pandemic.

Staff members said there are expanded opportunities for access to free online programs throughout the state. Staff members and the HCS board will discuss and vote on the future of the virtual program at a future board meeting.