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South Florence and Wilson High Schools ‘TEAM UP’ with Governor’s School for virtual courses

Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, students at Wilson and South Florence High Schools will have the chance to take classes through the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM) without ever leaving their home school’s campus.

Through a virtual program called TEAM UP, Florence 1 students will take courses in math, science and engineering using real time video conferencing technology provided by the Governor’s School.  Students must apply and be accepted to the three-year program that begins in their 10th grade year of high school.

Dr. Zaria O’Bryant, Director of TEAM UP, said that the virtual program was started as a way to offer the opportunities available through the Governor’s School to more students around the state of SC.

“The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics was established to give students across the entire state of South Carolina exposure to higher level math and higher level science,” O’Bryant said. “About seven or eight years ago the Governor’s School, along with our Foundation, SC colleges and universities, and several corporations around the state decided that if we could partner and reach into the school districts we could  prepare more students and retain the talent in the state.”

O’Bryant said that with a 288-bed limit for the school’s residential program, their physical space is limited; virtual programming opens up the door for many more students across the state.

“The way we present the virtual program is through partnerships,” O’Bryant said. “We ask the schools to provide a space for the students to take their virtual courses, a facilitator (an adult who is in the room with the students and works with our instructors), and the bandwidth in order to have the video conferencing equipment; we provide everything else.”

Nine districts are current TEAM UP partners; Florence 1 Schools will join next school year.

“We want students to be prepared before they ever get to college,” O’Bryant said. “The whole point of these virtual engineering programs is to cultivate more engineers in South Carolina. We need more engineers and we need more students to go to school in South Carolina; that will help the entire South Carolina economy.”

O’Bryant said that the virtual courses will offer students an extensive outlook on potential majors for college.

“We want to give them a broad stroke of what engineering is and allow them to go more in depth in some of the areas, such as mechanical and aerospace or biomedical, so they are more prepared when they go to college to decide what major they want to pursue,” O’Bryant said. “The majority of the engineering  courses in TEAM UP are honors courses, but they are going to get exposure to college content and curriculum and when they actually go to college they won’t be shocked by how much work it is and how complicated it is.”

Chris Rogers, Florence 1 Schools Director of STEM, said that, aside from the course material, another interesting aspect of the program is the chance for students in Florence to meet their peers from around the state.

“The students in Florence will be able to communicate with the students who are in the class with them from across the state so they’ll get a chance to meet students they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Rogers said. “A few Saturdays a semester the students will also get together in-person and do science experiments and other projects together.”

Rogers said that he is excited for the rigor this program offers, setting students up for success in college.

“This is challenging curriculum but something that they can handle when they work hard, especially if this is something that they really want to do,” Rogers said. “With several of the courses they will also earn dual-enrollment credits to put toward a degree.”

Students will apply as a rising tenth-grader and must have completed Algebra I and Algebra II to enter the program. South Florence students who are interested in TEAM UP will need to take a summer Algebra II course to meet the requirements because of the way their class scheduling currently runs.

Florence 1 Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said that the district’s commitment to providing academically challenging courses to students stretches beyond simply what can be offered in a brick and mortar building, as shown by the partnership with GSSM.

“Partnering with the Governor’s School we are able to offer more classes at a higher level of rigor than we can physically offer in all of our high schools,” O’Malley said. “Technology is a great way to open the world up to our students and give them every opportunity possible.”

Students who would like more information, or are interesting in applying for the program, can contact their school guidance counselor or Chris Rogers at chris.rogers@fsd1.org.