By Terry Cregar
TAYLORS — Prince of Peace Church has received approval from the diocese to start a kindergarten and first-grade program next year.
The two programs will begin next August with at least one kindergarten and one first-grade class.
It will be the fourth Catholic elementary school in Greenville County, joining St. Mary, St. Anthony of Padua and Our Lady of the Rosary parishes.
The effort stems from the results of a study of the entire Piedmont Deanery completed earlier this year by Meitler Consultants Inc. of Hales Corner, Wis. Meitler specializes in diocesan studies and school planning.
“The results were no surprise to us,” Father Steven L. Brovey said. “We knew from the growth, especially on the east side of Greenville, that the demographics were present to support development of a new elementary school.”
That study was followed this fall by an in-pew survey of four Greenville County parishes — Prince of Peace, St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Mauldin and Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville.
“That survey was meant to canvas their support and interest in Catholic education,” Father Brovey said.
The results of that survey showed a high level of interest and financial commitment to build a new Catholic school, especially from Catholics living on Greenville’s east side.
The plan calls for opening with kindergarten and first grade next August, and adding a grade each year until enrollment reaches eighth grade.
Father Brovey said the parish has formed a task force made up of parents of grade school-age children, staff members and strong supporters of Catholic education. That group has been divided into subcommittees assigned to address finances, curriculum, communications, personnel and buildings for the new school.
Brovey said the kindergarten and first grades will be housed in the parish’s current education wing, where there’s enough space to handle the classes for the next three years. He said that will give the parish enough time to decide whether to build a new education wing to accommodate the higher grades, or add on to the existing building.
“We’re looking at all of our options,” said the pastor.
Ann Smith, who has a child in the parish’s kindergarten class, said she and her husband are “very excited” about getting a Catholic school in their parish.
“We moved here from the Midwest, and living there, there was certainly no question that our children would be able to attend a Catholic school,” she said.
It was “disheartening” when the family moved here five years ago, she explained, to learn that that opportunity was more limited.
Enrollment at Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Anthony is near capacity, and there’s currently a waiting list to enroll in the school at St. Mary.
Prince of Peace now offers a pre-school program for children ages 1 to 4 and started a kindergarten this year. Thirteen students are in the kindergarten class and another 96 in the pre-school program.
There are currently 2,000 families in the parish and more than 1,200 elementary school-age children.
Smith, who is also director of the parish Child Development Center and a former Catholic school teacher, said tuition at the new school will be comparable to that at the other Catholic elementary schools in the area. A final figure won’t be determined until the new school has a firm enrollment number.
Father Brovey said having an elementary school at Prince of Peace fulfills the mission of the 26-year-old parish.
“Having a school here, in my view, completes the parish,” Brovey said.