MYRTLE BEACH—Bob Abt’s daughter, Gabrielle, is only in the fifth grade, but he is already making plans for her education through high school.
That’s why he joined about 50 others on Jan. 27 at St. Michael School to attend the last of three informational meetings about the new St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School, set to open in August in the Pee Dee.
Previous meetings were held at Holy Trinity School in Longs and St. Andrew School in Myrtle Beach. All three are feeders for the new high school, which will also likely attract students from parishes in Conway, Georgetown and Pawleys Island.
“A Catholic education is the best inheritance you can give kids,” Abt said. “I attended Catholic school growing up in Maryland and I want my daughter to have the same experience.”
He was one of many prospective parents who asked questions about the proposed curriculum, sports and other extracurricular activities, tuition, and financial aid.
Principal Theodore “Ted” Hanes, who had just taken on the full-time responsibilities of the job a few days before, said a lot of things are still in the planning stages.
“I know our vision might seem like a work in progress, but it is much more than that at this point,” Hanes said. “We’re going to start out great and get better by catering to the needs of each student’s mind, body, and soul. We’re asking for your time, talent and treasure to help make that happen.”
Hanes and Father James LeBlanc, pastor of St. Andrew Church, laid out the basic facts for what will be available when the doors open.
The school will start with ninth grade and add a grade each year. Hanes said he anticipates a freshman class of about 35 students. The first phase is being built to accommodate about 140 students and includes a 15,400-square-foot facility with six classrooms, a media center, music room, labs, and lunch and meeting space.
Curriculum guides for 2016-17 show the school will initially offer courses in theology, English, French, Spanish, algebra, biology, computer science, physical education, studio art, world geography and choir. Other courses will be added annually.
Hanes said St. Elizabeth’s curriculum is following guidelines already set up for the diocese.
“The great thing in sending your child to a diocesan school is we’re not inventing the wheel here,” Hanes said. “This is a brand new baby with a lot of uncles and aunts in the diocese to look up to. We’re setting up a rigorous curriculum that will be shaped according to the needs of our students.”
St. Elizabeth has started accepting student applications and the hiring process for teachers will begin in a few weeks. An entrance exam will not be required for students applying this year.
Abt and several others asked how the school will show its Catholic identity and cater to the spiritual needs of children in addition to the required theology classes. Father LeBlanc said a priest will eventually be appointed to serve as chaplain and celebrate Mass for students. Other prayer and worship opportunities will be a regular part of the school’s schedule.
A few parents asked if transportation will be available for students because of the long distances some will have to travel, especially if they come from Georgetown County or the rural areas of Horry County. Currently there are no plans for a bus or other formal transportation, and Hanes said parents would be encouraged to work together to form carpools or make other similar plans.
Parents and members of the community were also offered input on the school’s public image. At each meeting, participants were asked to make suggestions about the colors and mascot.
Construction is in full swing at the high school site along Carolina Forest Boulevard. As of late January, steel girders for the main building’s framework had risen into the air. The new school will cost an estimated $5 million, and so far $4.1 million has been pledged for the effort.