The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions regarding the strength of the traditional educational system in South Carolina, but an alternative option has long existed for area students.
South Carolina Connections Academy is an 100% online, tuition-free public school that is accessible to all K-12 students in the state.
“Our team of state-certified teachers and counselors have received specialized training in full-time online instruction, including how best to meet the needs of students without a brick-and mortar component,” said Daniel Island resident Alicia Hughes, the principal of ninth through 12th grade students for the school that opened in 2008.
“At that time, little was known in the state about virtual education,” she said.
The school selects top academic texts and incorporates them into activities, lessons, and units for students to complete. The school utilizes designers, videographers, and computer programmers to bring virtual lessons to the computer screen.
The school’s curriculum was designed to provide a full online education experience that follows state and national standards. SCCA offers gifted and talented, honors, and advanced placement courses for students.
While some might argue that effective communication between the student and the teacher could present a potential drawback to online schooling, Hughes expressed confidence in SCCA’s model.
“Our staff has the time to spend one-on-one with their students, helping them through the challenges of high school both academically and personally,” Hughes said.
Instructors can reach out to students via phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and live virtual sessions.
“It’s also important to remember that our students can reach out to teachers safely and comfortably without feeling embarrassed to speak,” she said.
Liz Baker is the mother of 11-year-old Kayla and 15-year-old Carson, who both attend the online school.
In 2017, Baker and her husband, Mike, decided that the typical brick and mortar school wasn’t working for Carson’s schedule. A top-ranked national tennis player, road trips across the country for tournaments throughout the school year often equaled missed class time.
“He would often miss more than 10 school days every year,” she said.
Baker enrolled Kayla at SCCA in 2018, and the family hasn’t looked back since, especially after the coronavirus outbreak.
“We feel like our kids finished a year of school and we didn’t get shortchanged,” she said.
She said that parents, including herself, often push the methods that they know best to help their children study. But each child is different, and SCCA offers a diverse selection of learning methods for children, including audio, video, and live or recorded lessons.
“Our approach includes a tailored learning plan for each student,” Hughes said.
SCCA’s model has proved the test of time during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our students were able to experience minimal interruption to their education in the spring throughout the global pandemic,” Hughes said.
For other area teachers hoping to return to the brick-and-mortar setting, she expressed words of encouragement.
“I was blown away with how quickly the teachers of the district were able to implement virtual education to students with no notice or training. They will take anything you throw at them, and I am confident this school year will not be any different,” she said.
Families who are interested in enrolling their children at SCCA can visit bit.ly/3hWd9Xf
to learn more.