Virtual program

More staff, streamlined communication between changes to the HCS virtual program

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – From technology and communication issues to feeling students are falling behind, many virtual families have decided to return to class for the start of the new school year.

Parents and students had to decide how they were going to learn this semester at the end of the last school year. It was months before COVID-19 cases started to rise again and before the hugely contagious delta variant became widespread in South Carolina.

Now, with just over a week of summer, around 1,600 students in Horry County schools are preparing to relearn from a laptop.

HCS Virtual Program Director Lindsay Lennon said they expected enrollment to drop. At the height of the program last year, more than 14,000 students were enrolled.

“We think most of the reasons people re-enrolled are because they had a positive experience,” Lennon said.

Lennon said he was preparing for another year of distance learning, that they had ironed out tech quirks, updated the curriculum, and hired more staff.

“We still have a technical support line, but now we have a secretary, a data quality clerk, administrators, guidance counselors. We are very confident in our communication with families this year, ”she added.

They hope that the students will feel that the virtual program is its own school.

Lennon said one of the main goals of the changes was to find new ways to support students and parents.

“Adding tips this year is something we didn’t have last year. It will be at all levels, but a big focus on the secondary level. And the main job of this teacher will be to really check in with these students, ”she said.

Lennon noted that they also have guidance counselors for each grade level, and the teacher-to-student ratio reflects brick-and-mortar schools. For Carolina Forest High who has become a virtual parent Pete More, this is huge for her rising junior.

“He had a lot of communication issues, which meant he would email his teacher and it would take days – days before he got a response,” More said.

He is convinced that a smaller program will result in better communication between students and teachers. He often said last year that his son wouldn’t hear about a question he had about an assignment until he understood it and returned the assignment.

Parent Sheila Davis said the program worked very well for her two children last year. But now that she occupies a much smaller portion of the population with fewer students enrolled, she said she worried they might not be a priority for the district.

“I hope we won’t be left behind, I have mixed feelings about this,” Davis said.

Lennon said that due to the way they streamlined communication and hired people specifically for HCS Virtual, that shouldn’t be the case.

“We have over 41,000 students in schools in Horry County, and it’s good to have different options to suit everyone’s needs,” Lennon said.

Although there are growing concerns about the delta variant and the increase in cases, registrations for the program are still closed. Students cannot enter or exit the program until January.

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