Reason & Republic is proud to announce that The South Carolina Preparatory Academy is prominently featured in the most recent issue of Anderson Magazine. Bob Hanley’s excellent article, “Student Enrollment Increases in Online Virtual Public Schools” can be read below, or by clicking here to visit Anderson Magazine online.

Student Enrollment Increases in Online Virtual Public Schools

By: Bob Hanley

Once a rarity in the world of education online schools have seen rapid growth in student enrollment over the past few years. Such schools vary in academic approach, schedule, format, and extracurricular options.

Offering online education since 2008, the South Carolina Virtual Charter School has a longer history than most. As a tuition-free public school, it provides a curriculum for grades K-12 based on South Carolina state standards.

According to Dr. Cherry Daniel, the school’s CEO, it has seen a surge in enrollment driven in part by the pandemic but also by a growing desire for more options in education delivery. Dr. Daniel estimates that the Covid-19 factor may account for about 1,000 additional students in the overall enrollment of 4,300 students this year. However, the increased popularity of the school lies in providing an education alternative that is attractive to students and parents.

“What makes S.C. Virtual Charter School distinctive,” according to Dr. Daniel, “is that we have a set schedule, teach every day, are online, interact live, and in real time.” Students come to the school for a variety of reasons, she added. Some like the “hassle-free environment and lack of interruptions during instruction.” Overall, she asserted, the students experience quality instruction.

The South Carolina Preparatory Academy is a more recent addition to online virtual school options. The school began its inaugural year as a free, public charter school in the fall of 2021, offering classes for 6-11th grade. Current enrollment of over 250 students is expected to increase next year with the addition of the 12th grade and expanded marketing efforts.

James Galyean serves as CEO of Reason and Republic, the administrative unit for the school. For him, “the addition of the South Carolina Preparatory Academy provides a much-needed curriculum option for students.” The program addresses state education standards through a classical approach, an educational model that utilizes literature, essays, and other works to explore ideas from the great minds throughout history. For Galyean, “the school offers students and parents a high-quality education through a flexible schedule that enables them to pursue other interests.” For some students, he said, participating in a virtual environment is attractive with its potential to decrease their risk of Covid-19 exposure.

The school is also developing a mentor option. Don Peppers, mentoring program coordinator, noted that “mentors provide students with additional academic support and also promote character development.” The overall goal of the school is to graduate young adults who are academically prepared for college and/or career and are dedicated to serving as good citizens in their communities.

As a parent with an eighth grader, Christy Buczko and her husband chose the South Carolina Preparatory Academy for its focus on a classical approach to education and emphasis on supporting the individual student. The schedule flexibility enables their daughter to participate in online courses required for graduation and also continue to take in-person classes at her previous school and connect with friends there. As an added benefit, she has more time to train for equestrian competitions.

A seventh grader at South Carolina Preparatory Academy, Isiah Allen, described his experience this year as “amazing.” He praises his teachers for “their flexibility in working with me and concern for my success.” He especially appreciates having a mentor. He and his mentor have visited the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and worked together on community service projects. Most importantly, “my mentor keeps me focused on my academics and encourages me to get my work in on time,” he said.

Reasons for shifting to the virtual academic pathway vary. Many cite the flexibility in scheduling as a primary motivation for change. Others point to the Covid-19 challenge as a deciding factor. Some note that this format enables them to have more time for other interests and activities. Many appreciate additional time with family. For such reasons, the online virtual education options in South Carolina have grown.

Online virtual schools that operate in South Carolina also include the Cyber Academy of South Carolina (K-10); the South Carolina Connection Academy (K-12); and the South Carolina Whitmore School (9-12). These programs vary in terms of academic approach, opportunities for teacher-student interactions, teacher credentials, scheduling format, extracurricular activities, options for AP courses and dual enrollment, costs, and other elements. For Galyean, parents should also note the accreditation status of any school they are considering for the student.

With the continuation of Covid-19 issues, the desire for greater school options, and other reasons, Galyean anticipates continued growth in the number of students seeking an online virtual school experience. Those interested in learning more about online virtual education may find additional information at each school’s website.