With some 80 students already registered for the 2023-2024 school year, early interest in what looks like the area’s most influential charter high school has prompted officials to take the next step.
Atlantic Collegiate Academy and principal Mike Lorenz are preparing to launch the initial wave of hiring. Later this month, job postings for many of its teaching positions and for an athletics director will go up on its website.
From there, a secondary hiring push that will include more teachers and varsity athletics coaches will begin — they hope by the end of winter.
“We want to offer all the [South Carolina] High School League sports, but it comes down to interest,” Lorenz said. “I’d love to even have a boys volleyball team. It’s a new sport. I think that would be awesome. But I don’t know if we’ll have that interest. I’m hoping to have all sports, but realistically, when you have small numbers, you might not have that many athletes.”
Lorenz, who first spoke to MyHorryNews.com back in August, updated several aspects of the school, one that will be operated under the umbrella of Pinnacle Charter School Management Group - the same for-profit company that operates Oceanside Collegiate, Gray Collegiate and Legion Collegiate.
The school’s location off Bear Bluff Road on the north end of the Carolina Forest attendance zone is scheduled to break ground in March, he said. From there, the construction company will need approximately 11-12 months to complete the process and open its doors to students.
In the meantime, ACA is nearing an agreement with Beach Church to operate its classes there for the first eight months or so.
While the school is ultimately aiming for a full enrollment figure of 700 students, that number the first year is shaping up to be no more than 50-60 % of that total while the temporary class site is utilized.
Additionally, the school has space agreements in place for several sports, although Lorenz said field usage deals for some sports, most importantly football, have yet to be found.
Either way, whatever sports ACA offers next year will almost assuredly be run as an independent member of the SCHSL’s Class 1A. Commissioner Jerome Singleton previously said that charter schools have a relatively easy path toward membership since they are public schools. The independent label could make scheduling in certain sports a little more difficult, and any varsity programs won’t be eligible for the playoffs in team sports.
However, barring an unforeseen circumstance, the school would then be included in the Class 1A realignment for the 2024-2026 two year block while attendance numbers likely rise. Eventually, the 700-student enrollment - which Lorenz said will not bend - will leave ACA participating in Class 2A.
Lorenz is currently operating weekly parent informational sessions, with the next ones happening Tuesday (11 a.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m.) at the John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Complex.
Pinnacle’s other schools frequently tout their elite athletics, and the daily routine includes a modified schedule. Lorenz, a former University of Wisconsin football player who spent a training camp in the NFL, said he’ll continue to sell Atlantic Collegiate’s athletics prospects.
Still, he’s stressing academics come first.
“This is an educational opportunity for the kids. The No. 1 thing at Atlantic is by far the academics,” Lorenz said. “Less than 1% of the kids go on to play at the professional level. I’m an example of that. Reach for your dreams, reach for the stars. But you better have [your education] taken care of.”
Horry County still has a team in the state football playoffs thanks to one of the relatively rare seeding upsets.
Carolina Forest, which went on the road to beat Goose Creek on Saturday in the second round, now owns one of the 20 seedings/home-field advantage upsets in the entire state during the first two rounds of the postseason.
Overall, there have been 120 playoff games between the five classifications. And only one-sixth of those games resulted in the home team not winning.
In the first round, home teams won 83.7 percent of their games. The figure dipped slightly in round two, where 82.5 percent of the home teams won. In total, teams from Horry County were involved in three of the 20 bracket upsets. In addition to Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, an at-large team in Class 4A, beat May River in the opening round. St. James, a No. 3 seed, lost at home in the opening round to Berkeley.
The classification with the most chalk so far is in Class 3A and Class 1A, where only two road teams have won in 24 games over the course of the first two rounds in each of the two divisions. Next up, Class 2A has had four upsets. Class 5A and Class 4A have each had six.
REGION VI-4A TEAMS IN LOWER STATE SEMIS
It won’t include any teams from Horry County, but the group that makes up the local Class 4A region has done it again.
For the fifth straight season, what is now known as Region VI-4A will have two teams in the final four of the Class 4A Lower State football playoffs. That streak continued after South Florence (vs. Bluffton) and West Florence (vs. Myrtle Beach) won second-round games on Wednesday. Hartsville missed out on giving the region three teams in the final four for the third time in five years when it lost to A.C. Flora on Saturday.
Myrtle Beach, Hartsville and West Florence each did so in 2021, and Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Hartsville also accomplished the feat in 2018.
Just the same, this type of region consistency has given even more credence to this being the toughest region in all of Class 4A.
In 2020, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach not only reached the semifinals, but played in the lower state championship game, which the Chiefs won before falling in the state finals to A.C. Flora. In 2019, Myrtle Beach and Hartsville did the same, with Myrtle Beach beating the Red Foxes in the lower state finals before losing to Wren in the state championship game.
The explanation for what these programs did immediately prior to moving into the region helps explain the trend. Hartsville joined in 2018 after making the Class 4A finals in 2016 and 2017 as a member of another region. South Florence and West Florence then joined the fray in 2020 when they dropped down from Class 5A.
Those three teams, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Wilson, will have at least one more crack to keep the streak alive next year before the 2024-2026 realignment window possibly shakes up the region again.