Workers put final touches on Whale Branch Early College High School

July 10, 2010 

Leonard Ronquest stained all the wood trim in the cafeteria/auditorium at Whale Branch Early College High School in Seabrook. Here, he uses a foam roller to apply a coat of polyurethane varnish.

BOB SOFALY | THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

  • The new Whale Branch Early College High School will be open for a tour on July 23, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony that begins at 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Crews are waxing floors and finishing landscaping to prepare for this month's official opening of the long-anticipated Whale Branch Early College High School in Seabrook.

Construction is nearly finished and furniture began arriving last week, according to Chris Poe, the district's construction and facilities planning officer. Crews also are paving Martin Lane and Detour Road, which have been widened to accommodate the $35-million school.

Principal Priscilla Drake said about 435 students are registered to attend the school, most of whom live in its attendance zone. The zone includes students living in Laurel Bay, a housing area for military families, and surrounding neighborhoods.

Other students throughout Beaufort County were encouraged to apply to the school's "early college" magnet program. The program allows students to earn credits toward an associate degree or college certificate from the Technical College of the Lowcountry while still in high school.

Cynthia Hayes, the district's student services officer, said 29 students have been approved to transfer to the school. She said a few of those students are from Bluffton or Hilton Head Island but couldn't provide exact numbers. Hayes said the number of transfer students probably will fluctuate before classes start Aug. 16.

About 60 rising ninth-graders already are participating in a readiness program that began in June to prepare for the college-level courses, Drake said. She said that represents about two-thirds of incoming freshmen.

The classes, held at Whale Branch Middle School, run from about 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and include reading, writing, math and career development. The program also includes college visits to schools in South Carolina and Georgia.

The summer program has helped set the tone of the high school and teach students what will be expected of them in college-level classes, Drake said.

"It's a motivator for a lot of kids," she said. "They see the possibility that they can get a college diploma."

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