Monthly's back to school profiles of the area's finest institutions




Address: 495 Buckwalter Parkway, Bluffton
Type: Independent
Grades: Ages 12 months to 8th grade
Head of School: Dr. Brad Schultz
Director of Admissions: Jennifer Drury
Phone: 843-706-2000
Student Population: 560

About the School: Established in 1998, Cross Schools provides a Christian-based education for children ages 12 months through 8th grade. Cross Schools helps students develop a passion for learning through small classes, rigorous academics, various enrichment courses, and faith-based learning. Students attend weekly chapel, participate in community service projects, and have the opportunity to join various clubs. Its athletic program — which includes cross-country, basketball, golf, soccer, volleyball, an equestrian club, sporting clays, a tennis club, football and baseball — encourages teamwork, discipline and physical fitness. The guiding principles of the Cross Schools community are academic excellence, Christian values and community service.

What’s New: During the 2018-19 school year, Cross Schools opened a new wing that included the Matthews Makerspace Lab, additional classroom space, an expanded gym and a large multipurpose area for upper school. The 2019-20 school year will welcome the addition of a Lego Lab and an outdoor amphitheater. The Chapel at Cross Schools, a 500-seat chapel, is under construction and will open in December.



Address: 11 New Orleans Road, Hilton Head Island
Type: Private
Grades: 6-12 grades
Director of Admissions: Tina Sprouse
Phone: 843-842-8600
Student Population: 100

About the School: Rooted in academic excellence and dedicated to students’ pursuit of passions, Heritage Academy is an academic institution where champions are made. The goal is to personalize education for each student, driven by their extracurricular interests. Heritage Academy enrolls students who have courage, are willing to sacrifice, and have the ambition to succeed. Lowcountry students who demonstrate passion for their fields and the drive and aptitude required to join Heritage Academy will learn alongside students from around the world, gaining a global perspective in a focused environment built to prepare them for success in the arena of life — and the academic standards to which they will be held will prepare them for top-tier colleges and universities. Students enter these halls driven by their passion. They graduate as champions. That is the Heritage Academy difference.


Address: 55 Gardner Drive, Hilton Head Island
Type: Private
Grades: Kindergarten-12th grade
Head of School: Doug Langhals
Director of Admissions: Dona Wood
Phone: 843-681-2878
Student Population: 400

About the School: HHCA is a non-denominational Christian college preparatory school that encourages the pursuit of excellence in academics, athletics and the arts, as well as a relationship with Christ. The school is one of 15 in the country that provides full faculty training in the Orton-Gillingham teaching method. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 and 25 different honors and AP courses, HHCA has a 100% college acceptance rate to schools such as Duke, West Point, Georgetown, Wake Forest and the U.S. Naval Academy. HHCA has a wide variety of middle and upper school athletic teams and more than 70 percent of students participate in the school’s fine arts programming.

What’s New: This year, HHCA celebrated the groundbreaking of its new state-of-the-art Bluffton campus. Designed by the country’s top education architects, Fielding Nair International, the new campus is expected to open during the 2020-21 school year. The school’s faculty also has been training for several years to implement project-based learning under the guidance of international experts in the student-driven learning model.


Address: 8 Fox Grape Road, Hilton Head Island
Type: Private
Grades: Pre-Kindergarten-12th grade
Headmaster: Jon Hopman
Director of Admissions: Bobbie Somerville
Phone: 843-671-2286
Student Population: 450

About the School: Hilton Head Prep is an accredited independent school with exemplary faculty who strive to create students of character, integrity and responsibility in a safe and welcoming environment. With an average class size of 12 students, Hilton Head Prep uses an innovative college preparatory curriculum that includes courses in liberal arts, science, technology and ethics, as well as rigorous Advanced Placement and honors courses. The school is continually ranked among the top K-12 independent schools in South Carolina, and 100% of Hilton Head Prep graduates are accepted to college. Participation in co-curricular arts, athletic programs and meaningful community involvement is highly encouraged. Hilton Head Prep also has a residential boarding program for national and international students.


Address: 4211 N. Okatie Highway, Ridgeland
Type: Catholic
Grades: 7th-12th grades
Principal: John McCarthy
Phone: 843-645-3838
Student Population: 220

About the School: John Paul II Catholic School educates children for the challenges they will face in college and beyond. The school’s motto, “Nolite Timere” — “be not afraid” — means the school is constantly examining its courses and evaluating academic standards while creating an environment rich in spirituality, fine arts and athletics, where each child reaches their full potential. At the center of everything the school does is our faith in God, and it is blessed to partner with parents to help children grow in that faith.

What’s new: John McCarthy is the school’s new principal. “My most important job now as the new principal is to listen, learn, and lead this community,” he said. “I have seen the long-range plan for the campus, and it is doable within the next five years if we all work together.” Sharing his philosophy on education, McCarthy said he intends to make John Paul II the best option for private school in the Lowcountry. Catholic identity, project-based learning, service-based learning, school as a family, academic rigor and a strategic plan to grow the school are at the top of his priorities. Giving students the ability to fail as a path to becoming risk-takers — an attribute he sees as lacking in many young people — is also paramount.


Address: 357 Red Cedar St. and 285 Red Cedar St., Bluffton
Type: Private
Grades: Ages 6 weeks–pre-kindergarten and pre-kindergarten–3rd grade (camp & after school)
Director: Kimberly Duke-Clark
Phone:  843-815-2271 & 843-815-2273
Student Population: 400

About the School: Established in 1997, Lowcountry Day schools are privately owned, state-licensed Christian preschools. Lowcountry Day provides a year-round pre-kindergarten curriculum, welcoming families from all denominations and encouraging learning through the creative arts by providing a ballet and music room on campus. The schools’ mission is to provide a safe, nurturing environment and the highest quality care to meet the needs of every child.

What’s New: Lowcountry Day is partnering with Hilton Head Christian Academy to provide after-school care and transportation on the Little Eagles Bus.


Address: 9 Fox Grape Road, Hilton Head Island
Type: Nonprofit, private
Grades: 12 months to 8th grade
Headmaster: Melinda A. Cotter
Phone: 843-785-2534
Student Population: 155

About the School: Mary Stone Fraser founded Sea Pines Montessori Academy in 1968 as a children’s house — the desks, windows, and tables were at eye level so that it was truly owned by the children. Today, Sea Pines Montessori includes 10 classrooms, a library, multipurpose room, a Suzuki piano and violin studio, an art studio, an outdoor green space and other amenities. In addition to offering golf at The First Tee of the Lowcountry and Sea Pines Resort, tennis with Van Der Meer Academy, and a thriving fitness program, the school offers numerous sports and clubs for all ages. Sea Pines Montessori instills a love of learning, strong social and problem-solving skills, a positive work environment, and respect for community.

What’s New: The school has doubled the size of its middle school and renovated the previous art studio to create a new STEAM-based learning environment. Entering its 51st school year, Sea Pines Montessori has low ratios and student standardized testing scores three grade levels above average. All of its teachers are first aid/CPR/AED certified


Address: 45 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island
Type: Catholic
Grades: Pre-kindergarten-8th grade
Headmaster: Brian Pope
Phone: 843-681-6501
Student Population: 215

About the School: St. Francis Catholic School’s mission is “to nurture students’ spiritual and intellectual growth in an authentically Catholic community committed to academic excellence.” Children from ages 4 to 14 benefit from integrated faith formation through weekly Mass, religion curriculum and service opportunities. St. Francis offers students a well-rounded and challenging curriculum that provides a foundation for success in high school. The school also has an exceptional parent and volunteer support system. St. Francis Catholic School accepts both Catholic and non-Catholic students; enrollment has increased more than 15% in the past few years. The increase illustrates the faculty's commitment to the spiritual and intellectual growth of students. More than 30% of graduating eighth-grade students earned the South Carolina Junior Scholar Award based on their performance on the PSAT last fall.

What’s New: St. Francis Catholic School recently installed a stage curtain in the multi-purpose facility. This addition, which was made possible by the St. Francis Catholic School Gala, will enhance the school's musicals, plays and concerts. This summer, the school also installed 15 new flat-panel Promethean interactive white boards — every classroom now boasts this new technology. St. Francis will continue the Discovery Lab curriculum introduced last year in the elementary school to help students develop problem-solving skills while learning about the engineering design process and scientific method.


Address: 100 Community College Drive, Bluffton
Type: Two-year community college
President: Dr. Richard Gough
Phone: 843-470-6000

About the School: Technical College of the Lowcountry provides quality, affordable academic and technical programs leading to associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in an environment that fosters excellence in teaching and learning. The college prepares graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to transfer to senior colleges and universities and for careers in computer technology, industrial technology, engineering technology, occupational technology, business, health sciences and public service.


Address: 8 Nature’s Way, Hilton Head Island
Type: Private
Grades: Ages 6 weeks to 5 years, with before- and after-school and summer care available through age 8.
Executive Director: Jody L. Levitt
Phone: 843-681-2739
Student Population: 190

About the School: The Children’s Center is a unique nonprofit organization that provides affordable early childhood education and childcare services to working families, ensuring every child is ready for success in kindergarten. The multicultural, bilingual program is provided five days a week, year-round, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is open to children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, with before- and after-school services available up to age 8. The school is part of the ABC Program, which supports low-income families with tuition assistance. As a partner with the USDA, children receive breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. More importantly, they receive educational building blocks based on a foundation of love from qualified teachers who see each child’s individual potential.

What’s New: New South Carolina early learning standards have been implemented in our pre-kindergarten classrooms to track each child’s development continuum.


Address: 5 Dunmore Court
Type of School: Nonprofit, private
Grades: Kindergarten-12th grade
Head of School: Mary Ann Cyr
Full-Time Faculty: 6
Student Population: 40
Phone: 843-342 9826

About the School: The Island Academy of Hilton Head is an innovative, dynamic, thought-provoking and authentic learning community. Using a team approach, head of school and educator Mary Ann Cyr and teachers Andrea Norman, Mollie Kinard, Leonard Ciliento, Marilee Willey and Emma Malinoski work together to help students become the best versions of themselves. The school’s mission is to "turn students on" to learning and inspire them to become life-long learners. The safe and supporting environment encourages the students’ natural and unlimited curiosity. Students receive academically rigorous instruction along with opportunities to collaborate, innovate, develop their creative thinking skills, and implement their ideas. The Island Academy is committed to an 8:1 student-teacher ratio.


Address: 1 Sand Shark Drive, Hilton Head Island
Type: Professional Development
Program Director: Keri Olivetti
Phone: 843-208-8320

About the School: University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training offers professional development opportunities and education in addition to event management resources and support services. Its Island Ambassador program is especially popular with local businesses and includes in-person seminars about Hilton Head Island culture, knowledge and ecology. After a half-day session, hospitality and customer service professionals can confidently discuss topics ranging from wildlife seen on area beaches to Hilton Head’s early history with island visitors and guests. This year, the center hit a new milestone: It certified its 2,000th Island Ambassador.

What’s New: The center recently added quality management evaluations and service quality improvement support for local hospitality businesses. The Bluffton Ambassador program will kick off in August. In addition, the center will soon be offering more educational programs to support the local hospitality industry.