Virtual, school choice options open for Beaufort Co. School District

You have until the end of the month to apply
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 11:00 AM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The School Choice application process is open for the Beaufort County School District.

Offering students and families the opportunity to find the right fit for them within the district.

“We have programs at our schools that parents have the opportunity to apply to. What we’re trying to push forward to all our families is what is offered at your school in your neighborhood,” said BCSD Chief Instructional Officer Mary Stratos.

School choice programs are offered from elementary through high school and range from engineering to welding and everything in between.

“It’s not a one size fits all anymore, particularly in public education. We want to make sure students have the opportunity to build upon what they’re interested in and to look beyond, ‘when I graduate high school and have a high school diploma what comes with that? Do I have a portfolio of skills I learned along the way? Do I have an industry certification that makes me more marketable?’ So, we’re trying to meet the needs of all students,” said BCSD Director of CTAE Karen Gilbert.

While virtual learning has been an option in South Carolina for nearly two decades, over the past couple years the Beaufort County School District has been making major strides.

“What we’re trying to do is perfect the model for us and really find who it works for. We know it doesn’t work for everyone,” said the Virtual Online Facilitator for BCSD Sharon McMahon.

Which is why the district created the application process, to at least give them a starting point.

“Does your student have a minimum 2.5 GPA, which is really C’s or above. Is their attendance in good standing? If so, the counselor can provide the parents an application. Then we’ll let the district do a review of the student grades, attendance and discipline,” McMahon says.

Three students who have already been taking advantage of virtual learning, 8th graders Dana and Daniel Godson and 7th grader Makayla Hinchey.

“The first semester of this school year I was at McCraken Middle and I went virtual this semester,” Makayla said.

For her the decision came down to athletics.

“I wrestle and I’m trying to make a World Team so I’m traveling all around the country during the summer and school year. So, if I’m still in school I wouldn’t be able to travel because I’d miss a lot of school, but virtual school allows me to travel and still do school.”

For the Godson twins it was the pandemic which initially lead them to virtual learning, something that at the time was a temporary plan but ended up sticking.

“The benefits continued when we looked at our kids, how they learn, the interactions they have in school and out of school. We felt like it was a great program to focus on academics and focus on athletics as well,” said Daniel and Dana’s dad Daniel Godson Sr.

Like Makayla, Dana and Daniel love the extra time to focus on their sports.

“It was right for me because of cheerleading,” said Dana.

But it has also led to better success in academically.

“I get to complete my work at my own pace and not have to rush, like I don’t have to rush doing my homework at night,” added Daniel Jr.

Another benefit for the virtual learners in Beaufort County, they get to remain as part of the district meaning they can still play for the school sports teams, attend dances and more.

“She can still do stuff with the school, she has live instruction, she interacts with other children. So, the social aspect, there’s no issue. Plus, she’s a social butterfly so if anything, this helps with less distractions,” said Makayla’s mom Jennifer Hinchey.

Offering students the best of both worlds, adapting to give them the best path to success.

“Education is always changing. I think the fact that we have an application process should reassure parents that we understand this is not for everyone, we’re taking it seriously, we have done our homework. We have spent nearly two years piloting this program to insure we have the right partners and the right programming in place,” McMahon says.

Just like the other school choice options the application process for virtual learning is also open right now through the end of the month.

For more information click here.