Simulated flyover of Fort Mill’s planned Catawba Ridge High School
Dee Christopher will have company soon.
The only employee of Catawba Ridge High School, which opens in August, 2019, expects to hire a bookkeeper in the next week or two. In the meantime, Christopher, Catawba Ridge’s principal, is adjusting to what is essentially a one-year sabbatical from the usual daily hustle of grade school administration.
“My beginning of the year has been very different to the last 16 that I’ve been a principal,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Christopher has been lounging around in the district office, where he’s currently stationed. Starting a school from scratch is hard work.
“I don’t have any teachers, I don’t have any students, I don’t serve any families yet,” he said. “That’s gonna change in the next couple months. I’ve been doing lots of research on best practices, going to schools, visiting schools, looking at everything from school day setup to instructional programs, to storage.”
Catawba Ridge will begin varsity sports in 2019. Christopher, who served 12 years as principal at Fort Mill High School, said the school will have students in grades 9-11 next year and intends to field a team in all the same sports that Nation Ford and Fort Mill high schools already do.
Copperheads sports teams have been accepted into the South Carolina High School League and will play in Region 4-3A, along with Chester, Indian Land, Fairfield Central, Camden and Keenan, for one year before the SCHSL’s 2020 realignment. There is a strong chance Catawba Ridge will move into the 4A ranks in 2020. Christopher estimated that the school should have around 1,100 students by then.
The school’s football team will play varsity football in Year One, but will play an independent schedule because most teams in the area will be locked in to the second years of two-year contracts. The Copperheads won’t play Nation Ford and Fort Mill in 2019 because those schools’ football schedules are full, but almost certainly will play them in 2020.
Catawba Ridge will begin varsity football region play in whichever conference the school joins in 2020. All other Catawba Ridge sports teams will begin Region 4-3A competition and play Nation Ford and Fort Mill teams in 2019.
Chief among Christopher’s pressing sports-related decisions is hiring an athletic director. Having an experienced AD on hand would allow Christopher to turn his attention to the rest of his fledgling school. He expects to post the AD job vacancy before October and hopes to make the hire before November. Catawba Ridge’s new AD would start work in January.
Christopher would also like to have a head varsity football coach hired before December. Christopher coached high school football for 10 years, including one year as Jim Ringer’s JV coach at Rock Hill High, and he has some philosophical ideas about Catawba Ridge’s football program, with one clearly at the forefront of his mind.
“Everything that we do has to be about developing young men and young women to be productive citizens, high character,” said Christopher. “In 20 years, when kids contact their coaches or teachers or principal, we want them to say ‘I remember this lesson that I learned.’ Those things are the things that are lasting.”
Philosophies are all Christopher can really talk about right now, though. The athletic facilities are coming along, in various states of construction, but none are complete. There are no team uniforms, though there are snazzy-looking logos. There are no teachers until January, when Christopher expects to have a full faculty and staff in place. The school doesn’t even have a phone number yet.
It does have a principal, who has plans that are quietly and busily progressing.
“It’s exciting to think about doing something from scratch,” Christopher said. “I believe I’m up to the challenge of doing that, of building a culture that is positive, that is inclusive of all students across the board.”
School boundary lines public hearing Oct. 1
Christopher said the Fort Mill school district is holding a public meeting at Nation Ford High School on Oct. 1, 2018 to present proposals for the town’s new school boundary lines. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.