A longer than expected permitting process will delay the opening of the first Catholic high school in the area.
Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Okatie -- which was planned to open this fall -- probably will not open until November or December, an official with the high school said Friday.
Until then, students will attend clases 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, said Ross Kuykendall head of the school's facilities committee and co-chairman of the fundraising campaign.
The Diocese of Charleston broke ground in February, later than school officials had hoped, Kuykendall said. Construction was supposed to begin in December.
"We knew permitting was going to be a lengthy, tedious process, but hoped it would have been faster than it was," he said. "We were predicting a nine- to 12-month permitting process. We were hoping for nine months, but it turned out to be 12."
Kuykendall said construction of the high school building is on schedule, but recent heavy rains have hindered installation of a road to the school as well as storm drains and sewer lines.
The school will serve an anticipated 60 to 100 students in seventh through ninth grades this fall, and will add a grade each year until it serves seventh- through 12th-graders, he said.
Kuykendall did not have an exact figure of how many students have enrolled at the school for the fall, adding that applications are still being accepted.
Attempts Friday to reach school principal Christine Paul were unsuccessful.
At first, a two-story, 28,000-square-foot building and an all-purpose athletics field will be built. Eventually, that building would house the high school, and other buildings would be added for middle school students, along with playing fields and a gymnasium, Kuykendall said.
The school plans to serve families throughout the quickly growing Lowcountry Deanery, which stretches from Hilton Head Island to Walterboro and includes about 8,100 Catholics. Ultimately, about 500 students could attend the school, officials have said.
The school is open to students of all faiths. It will emphasize technology and offer college preparatory curriculum, according to the diocese.
School organizers have raised about $9.1 million in pledges and one-time gifts, according to a May news release -- enough to build the school but about $3 million shy of the total needed to also build a gym and a multi-purpose field, Kuykendall said.
"We continue to fundraise and construction on the building is moving at a good pace," he said. "The school should be ready sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas."