Horry County Schools ending virtual program in fall after high failure rate

Superintendent and curriculum committee recommends district discontinue virtual learning
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 9:27 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Continuing the virtual program as it currently exists is no longer a viable option, curriculum leaders said to Horry County Schools administrators Monday night.

And after two undecided votes, the majority determined the virtual learning program would be dissolved in the 2022-2023 school year at the start of the fall semester.

Board members were not on the same page, however most agreed to a third motion that would dissolve the program with one added stipulation. That stipulation is Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey and members of the district’s curriculum committee would have to present a plan, outlining a viable virtual program for students within a years time.

During Monday night’s work session, the principal specialist for the Office of Learning Services - Lee James - presented nearly 100 slides to the board members, with data reflecting student performance for all grade levels.

The data ranged from the 2008 school year to where students currently stand as of the end of fall semester for the 2021-2022 academic year. The district reports over 40% of students enrolled in the virtual program are failing one or more courses.

James’ presentation revealed overall, more students in virtual learning are failing at higher rates compared to students enrolled in brick and mortar.

Some board members favored dissolving the virtual program, while others wanted more time before eliminating it altogether.

This resulted in two tied motions without an immediate resolution in sight.

In the end, board members voted to dissolve virtual learning for the upcoming fall semester, with the understanding more would be done to create a new program that’s a bit more supportive for at-home learning.

The motion passed 11 to 1.

Maxey said some students are flourishing in the program, however the data shows there’s a problem because too many students are struggling.

The superintendent said their focus needs to be on getting students back where they need to be academically.

Maxey said a temporary virtual model implemented in response to an emergency like a pandemic is different from a long-term virtual program, adding they need more time to develop another virtual learning structure so it can be successful for more students.

Some board members also brought up concerns about the younger students needing more personal interaction with teachers in the brick and mortar setting.

Students and parents wanting virtual school can enroll their kids in a state-supported free public virtual charter school/program. There are seven online virtual charter schools and one state-sponsored online program, in total.

Maxey added the virtual data is not a reflection of the teachers, stating the efforts they’re making have been great with trying to help every student succeed in all learning environments.

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