MYRTLE BEACH—It’s official — Catholic education is now available for all ages all across the diocese.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became the sixth high school in the state when its first batch of students kicked off a new era on Aug. 17. Faculty and staff greeted the teens as they filed into their temporary digs at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, across the street from the school campus.
The school building itself isn’t quite finished. Sandra Leatherwood, diocesan director for Catholic education, said construction was hampered by constant heavy rains, including the 100-year storm that led to massive flooding across the state last October.
Ted Hanes, principal, said the construction crew is wrapping up the “finish work” on the building, and is hoping to have everyone in the school by mid-October. They plan to hold a door-opening celebration then.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
“We certainly have to celebrate this. It’s a huge win for the community,” he said.
Meanwhile, everyone welcomed the 12 new freshmen and started the day with prayer, followed by activities to help them feel comfortable and time to meet their teachers. Hanes said they closed with Mass, adding that the kids all seem very excited to be there.
The freshman class, which will advance each year to become the first graduating class in 2020, has students from Holy Trinity in Longs, St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach, St. Michael in Murrells Inlet, and St. James in Conway, plus kids who are new to the area.
“All of our kids are Catholic, but we have some kids who’ve never attended Catholic school before, so this will be a new experience,” Hanes said.
The new principal said everything was running smoothly and praised the graciousness of Father Antony Zaki, a priest at St. Mark Coptic, and everyone else at the church.
“They have been very hospitable and warm in opening their church to us,” Hanes said.
St. Mark was chosen as the temporary base for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton because of its proximity to the campus property, located on 50 acres in the Carolina Forest, donated by the diocese. With students coming from feeder schools and parishes across the Pee Dee, St. Mark maintains the goal of being equidistance for everyone, Hanes said.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blessed the property last year at the groundbreaking ceremony, and called it a crowning achievement for the diocese.
“With the opening of this school, Catholic education will be available for all ages in every part of the state,” he said.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is the sixth high school in the diocese, which includes four diocesan high schools and two private ones, plus St. Anne in Rock Hill, which runs from kindergarten to high school and will have its first graduates in 2018.
The high school has been a long time coming for the Pee Dee, going back to when the late Msgr. Joseph Roth was pastor of St. Andrew Church in 2000 and a feasibility study was first conducted. Father James LeBlanc took the reins in 2011 along with other area priests and supporters from the community.
The fundraising committee set a challenge goal of $5 million and has reached just over $4.2 million. The funds will cover four phases of construction, plus future growth. The first phase includes six classrooms, a chapel, media center, lab, art and music rooms, and lunch and staff space. The next three stages will grow the building, adding an eventual basketball court, a stage, and commons area.
Hanes said they will spend the next few weeks planning extra-curricular programs based on the needs and interests of the kids, including potential team sports such as basketball and volleyball.
Top photo: Kaitlyn Hubany takes notes during Spanish class on the first day at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School.