The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette correct all errors of fact. If you see an error in this article, please call the city desk at 843-706-8139. Corrections and clarifications will appear in this space.
Web sites may link directly to search results and individual articles without permission.
Up to one paragraph of text may be included from an article as long as full attribution is given and the attribution links back to the full article.
To republish more than one paragraph of text, please contact us for permission.
Junior Ana Macias said she woke up Monday feeling nervous.
But it wasn't a typical case of back-to-school jitters.
Instead of worrying about where she would sit in the lunchroom or if her teachers would give too much homework, Macias pondered what she could do to make the opening of the new Whale Branch Early College High School a success. The school's first class of students will shape community perceptions, she said.
"You really want to make sure to keep up its reputation," Macias said. "People have high expectations for it."
Monday's pouring rain paused at about 7 a.m., allowing students to stay mostly dry as they walked into the $35 million high school in Seabrook to begin classes in the building for the first time.
"I'm excited," student Trey Nelson said. "We're the first students to be in the building. That's big for us."
He said the school feels different than Battery Creek High School, partly because of its size. Battery Creek served about 1,200 students last year, while fewer than 500 are enrolled at Whale Branch. Most of the students at Whale Branch live in the former Battery Creek attendance zone.
A smaller school might mean fewer distractions, Nelson said.
"We can focus on things that are important," he said, like college-prep work.
The Rev. James Moore of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church watched as students in purple and gold polo shirts gathered Monday in the cafeteria before homeroom. Moore has been a loyal supporter of the controversial school during its decade-long planning history.
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
Construction on the project, first approved by voters in a 2000 bond referendum, didn't begin until 2008.
Before that, district officials battled zoning challenges and opposition from the governor, Beaufort County Council members and some taxpayers. Construction was delayed as the district faced legal battles over the school's location and criticism that it was not needed in a sparsely populated area.
Last winter, the school board approved an "early college" magnet program for the school that it hopes will encourage students to pursue post-secondary education. The curriculum allows students to earn credits toward an associates degree or certificate through the Technical College of the Lowcountry while still in high school.