The good word on new Catholic high schools in South Carolina

CHARLESTON — The nation’s economic woes temporarily slowed plans for two new high schools in the Diocese of Charleston, but it hasn’t stopped them.

Bishop Baker Catholic High School, which is proposed for Horry and Georgetown counties, and Pope John Paul II School for Beaufort County, are both still on the boards.

Bill Meany, a member of Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island and chairman of the school planning board for Bishop Baker high school, said the board hopes to meet with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone soon.

In the meantime, they are raising money for a consultant to run their capital campaign and finalizing a list of requirements for the school building, he said. They hope to have architectural plans this winter.

Initially, they planned to open in 2012, but the recession has pushed that date back to 2013, Meany said.

“We should be able to do what we planned to do, we had to slow down a bit because of the economy,” he said.

The high school is named in honor of Bishop Robert J. Baker, now of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala. Bishop Baker approved the plans in September 2006 while still in Charleston.

It will serve the parishes of St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach; Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach; St. Michael in Garden City; St. James in Conway; St. Mary, Our Lady of Ransom and St. Cyprian in Georgetown; and Precious Blood of Christ.

The diocese owns 75 acres in the Carolina Forest between Myrtle Beach and Conway, and 50 of those acres are set aside for the school.  

Initial estimates of the cost for the new school, which could eventually host about 750 students, range from $15 to $20 million. 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.

Plans for Pope John Paul II High School are also progressing.

Father Ronald R. Cellini, who is pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton and president of the school planning board, said they are on track and have even hired Helen Ryan, Ph.D., as acting principal.

Ryan has a distinguished background in education, including a master’s degree in adolescent psychology from Wichita State University and a doctorate in human services from Walden University Online.

Most recently, she served from 2000 to 2007 as principal of Hilton Head High School and is a member of St. Francis by the Sea Church.

Before the new school opens, Ryan will serve as planning coordinator and organizer of the many committees needed to open a new school.

“This is something that is needed and it will please me to no end to see it come to fruition,” she said.

Pope Paul II school will serve the Catholic elementary schools of St. Peter in Beaufort, St. Francis by the Sea in Hilton Head, and St. Gregory the Great. Ryan said students may also come from other parts of the deanery, such as Jasper, Hardeeville and Ridgeland.

The school will be built on property owned by the diocese along S.C. Highway 170, near the Beaufort/Jasper county line.