Proposed high school bears Bishop Baker’s name

MYRTLE BEACH — The Grand Strand area could have a new Catholic high school by 2012.

The first of a series of informational meetings about the proposed school was held May 3 at St. Andrew Church. About 70 people attended.

The new school’s proposed name is Bishop Baker High School, in honor of Bishop Robert J. Baker, now of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala. Bishop Baker approved plans for the school in September 2006 while he was still bishop of Charleston.

The high school would serve parishes in Horry and Georgetown counties, including St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach; Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach; St. Michael in Garden City; St. James in Conway; Precious Blood of Christ on Pawleys Island; and St. Mary, Our Lady of Ransom and St. Cyprian in Georgetown.

The proposed facility will be located on 75 acres that the diocese owns in the Carolina Forest community off U.S. 501 between Myrtle Beach and Conway. Fifty of those acres would be committed to the school.

The meeting provided interested parishioners and other area residents with information about proposed costs, school size and fund-raising. A ten-member board of directors is working on plans for the development of the high school. Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, director of Christian formation for the diocese and pastor of St. Andrew, is the president.

Board members noted that the area needs a high school now more than ever because of the phenomenal population growth in recent years, especially in Horry County. The closest Catholic high school to the rapidly expanding area is Bishop England in Charleston.

Bill Meany, a parishioner at St. Andrew and chairman of the board, stressed the importance of having a high school that offers both educational excellence and spiritual formation.

“Catholic education was the defining part of my life, especially high school,” Meany said. “In high school, teenagers are being pulled in all directions, and the Catholic high school environment fills that void. It puts God into that void. … Creating Catholics for the future is our primary obligation as parents.

“We want to create a high school that continues what Christ started 2,000 years ago. We want to create a school that will provide spiritual and educational opportunities for every student to develop fully their potential and God-given talents, and to be a steward of God’s word,” he said.

Initial estimates of the cost for the new school range from $15 to $20 million. The school would likely start with 50 to 75 students in the ninth and 10th grades, and grow to serve a student body of about 750 students, board members said.

Projections show the initial number of non-Catholic students would be about 30 to 40 percent. That figure  might shrink as more Catholics move into the area.

Meany said at least $6 million needs to be raised by area parishes, and half of the funds must be in hand before groundbreaking can occur.

Each parish along the Grand Strand will have its own capital campaign committee dedicated to raising funds for the new school.

Board members also will seek grants, corporate gifts and other donations to fund the project.

Speakers revealed future plans that include placing another parish and possibly another Catholic elementary school in the Carolina Forest area. It would be located on the 25 remaining acres near the high school. That land could also hold athletic fields and additional parking.

Several people who attended the meeting stressed the importance of marketing the parochial high school not only to area Catholics, but to the community in general.

Using current figures as a guideline, board members said tuition at the school would be about $6,500 annually. Meany said every effort would be made to make the school affordable for as many students as possible.

Msgr. Roth reminded attendees about the importance of supporting Catholic education and the moral and academic excellence it provides.

“It’s the responsibility of all Catholics to support Catholic education — we can’t ignore that,” he said. “All of us working together are the ones who can make this happen. This school is going to make the community more valuable.”

The next informational meeting will be held at 9 a.m. May 17 at St. Michael Church in Garden City. Other meetings will follow at other parishes in the area.

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