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

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

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

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. Director of the Office of Virtual Education Bradley Mitchell said, “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.”

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

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:

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

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