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Education: High school starts with a freshman class

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Pawleys Island Christian Academy will add a freshman class in the fall, making it the third high school on Waccamaw Neck as it grows over the next four years.

The school opened in 2001 with 55 students in pre-K through fifth grade. It now has 115 students through eighth grade.

“Parents who have children currently in the school want to see a high school,” said Sherry Hubach, president of the Parent Teacher Organization who has two children at the school.

There are six students in the eighth grade class, about half the number in last year’s class, said Billy Cox, a middle school teacher who also has two children enrolled at the school.

The school expects to attract other students into the freshman class and is prepared to take some sophomores if they apply. “This is where we’re stepping out on faith,” said Hubach, a member of the board and its high school committee.

There is already space for high school classrooms on its campus at Pawleys Island Community Church. The school is a ministry of the church.

The school got its start around the dining room table of the Rev. Don Williams, senior pastor of the church. His wife, Ginny, was the first principal.

“We’re going to start off slow,” Williams said. He expects 14 or 15 students in the freshman class. Informational meetings for parents and prospective students will be scheduled in the next few weeks.

A high school has always been envisioned for Pawleys Island Christian Academy. “We just wanted to make sure we had the foundation set,” Williams said.

The school’s board created a committee last year to look at the viability of adding a high school. They looked at other programs and visited a Christian school in Virginia that followed the same route to expansion.

“It’s been a slow build for them,” Hubach said. “That’s to be anticipated.”

The eighth-graders who leave Pawleys Island Christian Academy are usually divided equally between those who go to public and private schools, Cox said. One concern for the school has been families who have siblings enrolled often move as a group when the oldest child moves to a private high school, he said.

“The last four years in particular have shown that,” Cox said.

There are also deeper issues for families.

“Our family’s values as a Christ-centered environment aren’t going to change when our children enter high school,” Cox said.

“My husband and I prefer to have our children in a Christian environment for their education,” Hubach said.

The small size of the school is also part of its appeal.

“We feel like we are part of a family at that school,” Hubach said. Her children “are surrounded with good friends and adults we can trust.”

As a high school, it will have to balance size with a desire to offer a broad college-prep curriculum. For that, it will turn to technology, Williams said.

“It will be the best of both worlds,” he said. “The best classroom experience and the best virtual learning experience.”

The technology allows students to move at their own pace and allows a more individualized curriculum, he said.

The high school will offer Advanced Placement and dual-credit college-level courses, Hubach said.

Part of the research involved getting input on university admissions. “Our programs are going to compete with anyone around here,” Williams said.

And the high school will continue the sort of community service work that is already a feature of Pawleys Island Christian Academy, he said. Students volunteer at St. Elizabeth Place, the Lakes at Litchfield and Friendship Place.

“This is the first step of something that’s going to be a benefit to the community,” Williams said.

In addition to the freshman class, Pawleys Island Christian Academy will get a new principal. Rick Kauffman will step down at the end of this year, Williams said.

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