John Paul II Catholic education goes high-tech

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comAugust 11, 2013 

Principal Christine Paul stands on the future site of John Paul II Catholic School that is being built in Okatie. Until the building is complete, students will attend classes nearby at Okatie Baptist Church's education center.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

For Christine Paul, faith and kindness paid off, and an old clichè held true.

"When God closes a door, He opens a window," said Paul, principal of John Paul II Catholic School in Okatie.

The first new Catholic high school in South Carolina in more than 50 years opens Aug. 21 -- just not in the building it planned.A longer-than-expected permitting process has delayed school construction.

Set to open this fall in Okatie, the building now will not open until November or December, Paul said.

In the meantime, students will attend classes at Okatie Baptist Church's education center, not far from the 72-acre school site along S.C. 170 near Camp Saint Mary's Road.

"Kindness pays off," Paul said.

When the Baptist community first came to the area, parishioners didn't have a place to worship; the diocese allowed them to meet at Camp St. Mary's, she said.

"We both realize we serve the same lord and the importance of being good neighbors," Paul said.

The new Catholic school will serve about 60 students in seventh through ninth grades this fall, and will add a grade each year until it serves seventh- through 12th-graders, she said.

Ultimately, about 500 students could attend the school, organizers predict.

The school is open to students of all faiths. It will emphasize technology and offer college preparatory curriculum, according to the Catholic Diocese of Charleston.

Families throughout the quickly growing Lowcountry Deanery, which stretches from Hilton Head Island to Walterboro, have raised money, planned and prayed for more than a decade to open the first Catholic high school in the area, said diocese spokeswoman Maria Aselage.

"The Diocese is thrilled that this dream is now a reality, and that junior and senior high school students in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina will have the opportunity to receive a quality, Catholic education," Aselage said.

Every student will be given a Lenovo ThinkPadTwist -- a two-in-one touchscreen tablet and laptop computer -- for home and school use.

"Our goal is to provide a high-tech learning experience infused with Gospel values so our students will develop the intelligent world view and compassionate, kind spirit of our namesake," Paul said.

About 75 to 80 percent of classroom work will be done on the tablet, Paul said, which will be loaded with e-textbooks, instructional apps, educational search engines to aide student research, interactive games related to classroom subjects and virtual science labs.

The devices are intended to engage students and give them familiarity with mobile technology they will use in college and their careers, according to Paul.

"It's how students and the world communicate and learn now," she said. "We wanted to give them tools that are in this century."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related content:

Permitting delays opening of Catholic high school in Okatie: June 21, 2013

Planned Catholic middle and high school receives another major donation: May 10, 2013

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