‘I’m very sad’: Horry County student in disbelief virtual program to end before senior year

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:36 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - One Horry County student says he’s highly upset.

He just found out virtual learning isn’t an option for him next school year.

The Horry County Board of Education made what many consider to be a tough decision to dissolve the virtual program Monday night because too many students are failing their courses.

The district’s data reveals more than 40% of students enrolled in the virtual program are failing one or more courses. These numbers represent students in the K-12 grade levels.

But students like Trent Spencer are excelling with online learning.

Spencer feels the district’s decision to end the program penalizes many of his peers who depend on the virtual environment.

He cannot believe the changes will be happening right before he starts his senior year this fall

“I’m very sad and upset now they’re switching it up on me the last year,” Spencer said. “It would be like I’m a new student if I walk in there now. Even though 40% of students are failing, we shouldn’t all be punished, the remaining of us.”

This is an issue district leaders went and back and forth on Monday evening. Some express hesitancy about ending the program when some students like Spencer are doing well.

But the number of students failing is still a big concern for leaders.

During the board’s Monday night work session, the district’s principal specialist for the Office of Learning Services Lee James presented about 100 slides, showing data reflecting student performance for all grade levels. It compared how many students in virtual are failing courses to those in the brick and mortar classroom.

“Students in the virtual program are twice as likely to fail one or more classes compared to their brick and mortar peers,” James said.

The presentation led to a roller-coaster ride of tied votes and discussions.

Ultimately, a majority vote ended virtual learning starting with the upcoming fall semester, with major stipulation-the superintendent and curriculum committee are expected to create a new viable virtual learning plan within the year.

The decision leaves current virtual students like Spencer to weigh all their learning options.

They can enroll in brick-and-mortar or choose a free online program with a charter school or one sponsored by the state.

“I think I’m going to do a private online school somewhere else,” Spencer said.

The virtual program will be dissolved beginning fall semester of the 2022-2023 school year.

Accountability for virtual outcome

Sherry East serves as the president of The South Carolina Education Association.

East has experience teaching in a school environment that incorporated both the virtual and a brick-and-mortar learning environment.

“We still required students to come to class,” East said.

She commends HCS for making a hard decision to end the virtual program in the 2022-2023 academic year, after looking at the data.

“Especially disturbing for those early grades. I don’t think anything can replace a true face-to-face education,” East said.

East says looking ahead, there needs to be more focus on accountability and why so many students are failing in a virtual learning environment. So history doesn’t repeat itself in the future.

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