Charleston Co. Schools change all-year virtual program after ‘overwhelming’ demand

Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 7:13 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is making major changes to its all-year virtual program after almost 12,000 students enrolled.

“We had an overwhelming number of families across the district enroll in the Virtual Academy,” a school district statement stated. “These families are concerned about the current virus levels and wanted a remote option for their children.”

In the intent to enroll form sent to parents in July, only about 6,000 students showed interest in the Virtual Academy, half of the amount that eventually locked that in as their final option last week.

The program, which is still set to launch on Sept. 8, is being transitioned from operating as its own independent school to being more closely associated with that of a child’s home school.

“We weren’t expecting to have this much more than our expected enrollment, and we don’t want to pull teachers out of schools to put them on the Virtual Academy,” Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said.

At the start of the year, there will be little to no difference at the elementary and middle school level between the Virtual Academy and the “temporary remote” option, Belcher said. However, high schools were already planning their own Virtual Academy connected to their school, so no major changes are being made at that level.

If virus numbers continue to decline and more students choose to return to in-person classes, the Virtual Academy could become its own independent school once again.

“We may have to centralize it again and can at the end of the quarter,” Belcher said.

All of the county’s teachers are being trained in virtual learning, and some may be shifted to teach kids enrolled in the academy depending on the need at their home school. No teacher will be required to teach more than their contracted course load, Belcher said.

Parents should be notified by Sept. 1, at the latest, about which option their child will be enrolled in to start the year on Sept. 8.

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