‘It’s a school!’ Holy Trinity opens its doors for inaugural year

CHARLESTON — A fourth elementary school has joined the Pee Dee Deanery this year.

Holy Trinity Catholic School in Longs will greet its first batch of students on Aug. 26. Collette Ott, the new principal, said they had about 20 students enrolled prior to the first day, but expected more to register as parents made last-minute school decisions. In fact, Ott predicts that students will continue to sign on through the first week and expects a busy opening day.

Holy Trinity will start later than other schools in the Diocese of Charleston in order to receive the blessing of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. The bishop will visit the area Aug. 22 to celebrate Mass, dedicate the school, and bless the former Baptist church as a Catholic chapel.

The complex, which sits along the Waccamaw River, was formerly the home of Livingstone Baptist Church and Faith Christian Academy.

The diocese purchased the property in November 2008. Now the school, its chapel that seats 325, and its life center with a gym and kitchen, are under the auspices of Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church.  

Ott said Holy Trinity will start with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes, plus a multi-level classroom for first through third grade.

“You just have to start small,” she said. “Everything starts small.”

Ott moved from Florida about four months ago (See page 12). Since then she has worked with Father Robert Higgins, who is the church administrator, church employees,  and over 50 volunteers to prepare for opening day.

Ott said they had some desks, tables and computers, but needed more, plus all the items that go along with teaching young children. To obtain these materials, the church set up a giving tree where parishioners or visitors can pluck a request from the branches and purchase the item for the school. They also held a baby shower.

“You know how you see those signs saying ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘It’s a girl’? We had a little sign that said ‘It’s a school!’” Ott said.    

In three months time, they went from practically nothing to a fully-stocked school. Now they have a Smart Board, a brand new playground, and will offer music, art, computers, physical education and Spanish in addition to regular academics and religion.

Sister Anna Marie McCormick, of the Benedictine Sisters of Corpus Christi Monastery in Michigan, will provide spiritual guidance at the school and teach religion, art and Spanish, Ott said. Postulant Deborah Knipschield will also serve as a part-time teacher.

Students will bring their own lunches this year, but the principal said she hopes to have a pizza day or other special treat once a month or so.

As an incentive to encourage parishioners and volunteers to visit, Ott said the school will offer its circular drive as a walking track and invite walkers to come inside to sign the prayer book and see the framed tapestry obtained from Yankee Stadium after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to New York.

“I hope they will come for a prayer walk and say a prayer for us,” Ott said. “Starting up a new school in this economy, we need prayers and more prayers.”