Horry County Schools (HCS) will enter new territory in local education with the expansion of its virtual school.
Since 2011, the HCS Virtual Flex Program has been open for part-time use to help students catch up in summer school or provide classes at a time that works best for a high school student’s schedule.
Now the program is moving into a K-12 online school model. It will be one of a few fully virtual K-12 programs offered in the state. HCS officials said larger school systems like in Greenville and Charleston have also looked at this expansion of virtual class offerings.
HCS staff said this will begin for the 2021-2022 school year.
They anticipate roughly 5,000 students will enroll in this program. With that, they asked the board to approve a new staffing model that will bring in 10-17 employees from the Principal, Assistant Principal, teachers, and counselors.
Horry County School staff estimate the additional staff could cost between 900,000 to 1.5 million dollars.
They anticipate using CARES Act funds to cover the costs for the upcoming school year.
Staff said students enrolled in the program will be tied to their base school in their respective district.
At the elementary school level, students will have one hour of instruction by an educator. Then the teacher will be working with students for individual lessons.
At the middle and high school level, students can spend upwards of two hours in an online classroom setting.
The K-12 program will still provide services and placement for students in special education, Advanced Placement, College Prep, and other course curriculums. Students that also attend the virtual school may have the option to still take part in school sports tied to their base school.
However, the idea of new costs did not make sense to some board members.
“I don’t understand why we are here,” said District 11 board member Shandra Allen. “We have facilitated this [virtual learning] for over a year now without creating conditions to service a whole different department.”
Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey argued that the structure for the school should be set.
“It’s been a patchwork to make it work,” Maxey said referring to the past year. “We have a lot of turnover within the school year, it would not be difficult for us to take these positions and fill them.”
HCS sees roughly 200 teachers leave the school system annually according to staff.
Enrollment into the HCS K-12 Virtual School will be detailed later in the spring.