Myrtle Beach-area parents go to school to learn about expanding programs

About 200 parents and rising ninth-graders gathered at Myrtle Beach High School Thursday night to learn about the growing number of high school programs available in Horry County Schools and to get answers to questions ranging from “What is this?” to “How do we apply?”

The meeting was the second of five being held in the district to give an overview of what is available and allow parents to get specifics from program administrators. It is the second year the district has taken this more uniform approach to getting out the word on its expanding offerings, which range from the fledgling Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, to niche offerings that are forming at the nine base high schools that anchor each attendance area, such as the medical magnet program that will begin next semester at Loris High School.

“We want each individual student to find the best option for their education,” said Velna Allen, HCS executive director for secondary schools.

Alison Youngblood was at the meeting with her son Will, who attends North Myrtle Beach Middle School. They were in the long line for information on STEM, which can only be entered in ninth grade. Competition has been intense for spots in the program, which launched in fall 2011. More than 200 applications were received for the 100 available seats in its first year. Last year, the freshman class size was increased up to 150 seats, for which the district received more than 450 applications, along with some parental frustration.

Youngblood said they were interested in STEM because they had heard it has smaller classes, and she also likes the fact that classes such as pre-med and pre-engineering are offered. Will said he is keen to be accepted because math and science are his two favorite subjects, and he is leaning toward becoming some type of doctor or engineer.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Will said of the application process. “I’ve been preparing for the entire year.”

Allen said acceptance to STEM is based 30 percent on achievement data, 30 percent on academic performance and 40 percent on two written prompts to determine a student’s interest. A change is being made this year to the written portions in response to parental concerns, and those will be proctored at the middle schools.

Other programs discussed included the International Baccalaureate program at Aynor and Socastee high schools; the Scholars Academy at Coastal Carolina University; the HCS Early College High School at Horry Georgetown Technical College; the Horry County Virtual School; and career and technology majors at the Academy for Technology and Academics and AAST.

In addition to STEM’s popularity, Allen said the district expects increased interest in both Early College High and Scholars Academy. New buildings are being constructed for both on their college campuses, and Allen said she believes the programs have been better promoted this year.

Applications for STEM, Early College, Scholars and the academies are online, and the deadline for submission is Feb. 15. More information can be found in the Secondary Program Guide, which can be downloaded from the district’s website,

Allen said applications must be received by the deadline, and there will be no waiting lists. She said once students are accepted to a program and have made their final commitment, “That’s it.”