Our Lady Star of the Sea plans to open new school this year

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Our Lady Star of the Sea will open a new school at the start of the 2009-10 school year and is searching for a principal to lead it, according to Father Robert Higgins, church administrator.

Sister Julia Hutchison, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Charleston, said the parish has wanted a school for a long time, and was recently given an opportunity they could not pass up.

Father Higgins said he had just arrived as administrator of the church in April 2008, and on his first day off went to a diner for breakfast. There, a man by the name of Russell Burgess bought his meal.

Burgess was from one of the founding families of Horry County and had served as mayor for 13 years. A man in the know, he told Father Higgins that the former Baptist church and school were for sale.

Father Higgins said he immediately took the proposal to the diocese. By November, 22 acres and three buildings had been purchased.

Call it the hand of God.

“It was an opportunity that we needed to take advantage of,” said John Barker, chief financial officer of the diocese. He said the purchase was financed through a loan.

The new diocesan property rests along the Waccamaw River and contains a church that seats 325, and a school that is already fully equipped. Sister Julia said they have everything from tables and chairs to computers. Even the cabinets are loaded with school supplies. The purchase also includes a life center boasting a gym, kitchen and offices.

Dr. Dennis Kenney, the former owner, sold it to the diocese for a very reasonable price because he wanted it to be used for Christian education, according to both Father Higgins and Barker.    

Livingstone Baptist Church and its school, Faith Christian Academy, will now be known as Holy Trinity Catholic Education Center.

Father Higgins said the name choice indicates that it is more than a school. It is a life center that is open to everyone in the diocese.

Our Lady Star of the Sea will manage the complex and the school. Right now, they are collecting resumes for a principal and teachers, and are looking for volunteers.

Father Higgins said they would like to find an order of nuns to serve in the school.

“Our primary desire is a religious order in habits,” he said. “Nothing says Catholic school like a nun in habit.”

The school hopes to serve kindergarten through fourth grade to start, then add a grade each year at least up to eighth grade, Father Higgins said. He noted that they already have about 140 students committed to attend, and have a capacity for 400.

Currently, the Myrtle Beach area is served by St. Andrew School, which is filled to capacity and has a waiting list. Molly Halasz, principal of St. Andrew, is on the new school’s principal search committee.

Other schools in the Pee Dee deanery include St. Anthony in Florence and St. Michael in Garden City. Sister Julia said neither of those schools are close enough to be affected by the new education center.

A questionnaire for families with school-age children is available at the back of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, or may be downloaded from www.olssnmb.com by clicking on Holy Trinity Catholic Education Center.

Send completed forms by Jan. 15 to: Holy Trinity Catholic Education Center, Attn: Vicki McCambley, 1100 8th Ave. North, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582.