State Board of Education Approves 33 School District Virtual Learning Programs

Columbia, S.C. - In a special called meeting on June 19, the State Board of Education approved 33 school district virtual learning programs for the 2021-2022 school year. The approved programs met enrollment criteria established by the South Carolina General Assembly and guidelines established by the State Board of Education that were derived from similar regulations pertaining to virtual charter schools.

"While all South Carolina schools are rightly prioritizing full, in-person instruction this upcoming school year, we know families in some communities were able to successfully navigate virtual learning and would like the option to continue," said State Board of Education Chair Dr. Kristi Woodall. "The districts whose programs were approved have demonstrated that they are able to meet the high expectations that we have set for virtual instruction and student participation."

Full time virtual learning programs were required to meet all the following guidelines which were adapted from similar regulations governing virtual charter schools.

At least 25 percent of the instruction must be through synchronous instructional opportunities;
Each course must be taught by a teacher holding a valid SC teaching certificate for the course(s) being taught virtually;
Provide for frequent, ongoing monitoring of an individual student’s program to verify each student is participating in the program;
Include proctored assessments for core subjects per semester that are graded or evaluated by the teacher;
Conduct required state assessments for all students following testing requirements;
Conduct at least bi-weekly parent-teacher contact in person, electronically, or by telephone;
Provide for a method to define and verify student attendance;
Provide for verification of ongoing student progress and performance in each course as documented by assessments and examples of coursework;
Participate annually in a program review conducted by the South Carolina Department of Education
Additionally, the General Assembly in the 2021–22 General Appropriations Bill, included a proviso that capped traditional school district virtual enrollment at 5 percent of the district's total student population.

Parents looking for virtual options in districts with and without their own virtual programs can enroll free of charge in VirtualSC, a free state-sponsored online program serving students currently attending public, private and home schools in grades 7-12 and Adult Education Programs. VirtualSC offers a wide variety of online course offerings including the full suite of Advanced Placement courses. Registration opens on August 18 for middle and high school year long courses.

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

Odyssey Online Learning
South Carolina Connections Academy
Cyber Academy of South Carolina
The SC Preparatory Academy
South Carolina Public Charter School
SC Whitmore School

The State Board of Education expects to take up additional district plans at its August 10, 2021 meeting.

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