First new diocesan high school in decades breaks ground

BLUFFTON—With a shovelful of dirt, the first diocesan high school to be built in about 40 years came one step closer to reality.

Ground was broken for John Paul II in Bluffton on Dec. 12, during a lull in an otherwise stormy day.

“It was like God smiled on that moment,” Jacqualine Kasprowski said. “It was a thrilling experience to be there.”

Kasprowski, diocesan associate director for secondary education, said the significance of the event was marked by a significant string of numbers as well, with the groundbreaking being held on the 12th hour of the 12th day of the 12th month in 2012.

A diligent group of parents and church leaders had been working toward the goal of a new school for almost 10 years, she said, but events really started clicking along in the last two.

Construction on John Paul II will begin once the final permit is in hand, hopefully by January, said Chris Paul, principal.

“To see the work of this community finally come to fruition was exciting,” Paul said.

The two-story, 30,000-square-foot school will cost about $7.5 million to build, she said. So far, the fundraising campaign has $8.5 million, with an ultimate goal of $12 million. Paul said this will allow them to also build a gymnasium.

When the school opens in August 2013, it will start with seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. Paul said they may also have a 10th grade class if they have at least 15 students committed. Once complete, the school will hold 500 students and will grow by a grade each year until they have a senior class.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone was present at the groundbreaking, his second this month. Charleston Catholic broke ground on their new building on Dec. 5.

Also in attendance were Msgr. Ronald R. Cellini, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church, several priests from other area churches, school and community leaders, and students.

Kasprowski credited Msgr. Cellini as a driving force behind the realization of the high school.

Located just outside Beaufort, it will be the fifth Catholic high school in the state, joining Bishop England in Charleston, Cardinal Newman in Columbia, St. Joseph’s in Greenville, and St. Francis Xavier in Sumter.

Another high school is also being planned for the Pee Dee area.