SC public online schools say interest in virtual programs likely to remain high after pandemic

Education

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Officials say interest in online virtual schools in South Carolina hit new highs at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

“Before we were more of an outlier. Now I think virtual education is becoming more acceptable,” said South Carolina Connections Academy Executive Director, Josh Kitchens.

When the pandemic forced students to learn virtually in 2020, some parents opted for more established virtual programs for their students. One of those is VirtualSC. The state-sponsored online program is open to students from 7th to 12th grade.

“Right now we have 13,154 enrollments. Last year at this same exact time, we had 15,317 but the year prior we were at 11,821,” Director of the Office of Virtual Education Bradley Mitchell said.

He said this year they are back to normal growth.

Some of the smaller online schools like Odyssey Online Learning said they added 200 students this year. With this increase in enrollment, they’ve had to add extra staff.

“We have been blessed to have all the federal funding coming in to help hire additional support services staff for our students,” Executive Director Ashley Owings said.

The South Carolina Preparatory Academy is one of the newest online schools in South Carolina. Executive Director Tracey Williams said she expects interest in virtual education to continue to grow.

“Maybe not at the same pace at the last year and half but there will always be a need for it,” she said.

South Carolina is also home to six free online virtual charter schools that are available to students and their families statewide:

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