Aiken County parent pushes for more virtual learning options

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 7:33 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence was out in the community Monday to help welcome Aiken County’s 22,000 students back for a new year.

Of those 22,000, only about 225 are virtual. One mom says she’s pleading for her child to be number 226.

It’s already sounding like a copy of a broken record from last year. COVID, masks, contact tracing, virtual school ... over and over. But even though many want to move on from last year, we spoke to one mom who says her daughter walking back into the school doors full time is causing stress and heartache.

At schools across Aiken County, safety announcements ring a familiar tune.

The car line backed down the road like it used to. But for some parents it’s not all hugs and cheers.

“I was nervous trying to be strong for my child because she is very nervous,” said Jasmine Lightsey, an Aiken County parent.

Jeni Boyd says her daughter was better than ever in virtual school.

“She has a IEP, so I was able to stay home, help explain things to her until she understood it. It was the first year she ever passed a grade, which was really good,” said Boyd.

But when asking if she can do it again this year...

“They told me no,” said Boyd. “That what’s best for my child is not what is best for everyone else’s children. And my child was no exception.”

The virtual program is only open to grades 6 through 12. Her daughter is in fifth grade. And even parents in that older age group looking to switch their kid in the program are in a bind.

“With all the available slots full right now, there is certainly a waiting list,” said King Laurence, Aiken County Schools Superintendent.

The district says they needed time to plan ahead and have staff in place.

“We are limited by state law that only five percent of our students. So no more than five percent of our student population can be in our virtual model,” said Laurence.

And as our districts look for ways to keep the doors open some parents are fighting to keep their kids back at home.

And though the district is capped by the state to only allow five percent of students in their virtual option, they currently only stand at about one percent. But again they say there’s a waitlist for Aiken Innovate because they had to act early and designate teachers to online schooling and it’s too hard to move teachers around this late in the game.

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