As the effort to build a charter high school in Destin gains momentum, some people are left asking some questions. Why a charter school? And what is the difference between a charter and a public school?
In a nutshell, according to Niche.com, charter schools are public schools that are independent of school districts through contracts with state or local boards. Charter schools must be open to all children, cannot require entrance exams, cannot charge tuition and must participate in state testing and federal accountability programs.
“We have more flexibility in our decision-making process and what we offer,” Destin High School board member Sarah Stone said. “We’re still graded on the same scale as a public school, we just have more flexibility in our governing of the school.”
The school district will still oversee the charter school, but instead of being governed by the district, charter schools are governed by their charter contract and governing board.
When it comes to the curriculum, both public and charter schools have to base their curriculum on state education standards, but charter schools have more flexibility in how they teach their curriculum.
“Our high school will be held to the same standard as all high schools in Florida,” Stone said. “There are no exceptions for a charter high school when it comes to the curriculum (when it comes to the standards).
“We will essentially be public, it’s just labeled as a charter because it’s not directly opened and funded by the school district,” added Prebble Ramswell, the president of the corporation’s executive board. “The other options were private and magnet, but we didn’t want to go that route because we wanted it to be available to all the children in Destin. And we will be accredited.”
According to Stone, when the board started to work on this project two years ago, they discovered that Okaloosa County hadn’t built a new high school in 47 years and due to the low 6 percent tax rate of the county, it cannot afford to build or maintain any new schools.
Ramswell said that all local schools are currently over capacity and Fort Walton Beach High School is at capacity, which is the school all Destin students are zoned for.
“We clearly have 200 students per grade with Destin addresses at this point,” Ramswell said. “We really have to meet this need. Obviously the school district wasn’t able to fulfill this need at this time so we knew we had to move now.”
The charter application for the school was submitted on Feb. 1. The school district has 90 days to approve or deny the request and the charter school board members are optimistic.
“I personally met with Superintendent Marcus Chambers,” Stone said as she described the day they submitted the charter application. “He was so positive and so nice and said he views this as a partnership and wanted to work with us and was excited for the opportunity. He was nothing but positive.”