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Virtual options expanding for SC grade-level students

Over 30 school districts have had virtual academies approved by the state, adding to the list of available online options.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — 33 school districts have had their virtual programs approved by the state and there are several other online options for students this school year.

Rising senior Clifford Bourke likes taking online classes because they offer him flexibility in his schedule.

"Right now I’m taking personal finance, but this past semester I took US History," he said while browsing through courses on his laptop.

While most of Bourke's classes are at his Richland Two high school, he takes courses with VirtualSC, too.

"I may want to take a certain type of elective and that might not fit with my core class, so VirtualSC will give me an opportunity to take the elective I want. Or, if I want to take the elective at school, it’ll give me the opportunity to take the core class I want,” said Bourke when asked what he likes about online learning.

RELATED: South Carolina approves virtual learning programs

Middle and high school students can sign up for free VirtualSC courses starting August 18. 

If families want a full-time virtual option, several Midlands districts are expanding their programs this year.

Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon told News19 that Richland School District One has 500 students, K-12, signed up for virtual academy. 

A proviso by the General Assembly requires virtual enrollment to be capped at 5% of a districts’ student population.

When asked why his district chose to have a virtual academy this school year, Witherspoon said they want to provide as many "options and opportunities" for students as possible. 

All South Carolina districts can extend online programs, under certain conditions. The State Board of Education requires them to have testing, take attendance and offer synchronous instruction.

RELATED: Pediatrics group says all students should wear masks at school - why that won't happen in SC

“There is some synchronous time that's built into the virtual program," Witherspoon explained. "For example, high school: One day a week they will come in, whether that's academic support, interventions, social-emotional support, those types of things."

The superintendent said elementary students in the virtual academy will have synchronous learning every day and will also come into the building once a week.

The Board of Education recently approved programs in seven Midlands districts:

  • Fairfield County, virtual learning for grades K-12
  • Kershaw County, virtual learning for grades K-12
  • Lexington One, virtual learning for grades 6-12
  • Lexington-Richland Five, virtual learning for grades 1-12
  • Orangeburg County, virtual learning for grades PK-9
  • Richland One, virtual learning for grades K-12
  • Sumter County, virtual learning for grades 6-12

RELATED: 4K education expands to all parts of South Carolina

If a family's district isn’t offering virtual programs, there are other options. South Carolina has six free online charter schools that are available to students statewide:

Plus, the Board of Education said districts are still submitting plans for virtual programs. They’ll take the new plans up for consideration at their next meeting on August 10th.