At Monday night’s Okaloosa County School Board meeting, the board approved the Destin high school’s charter application. So what’s next?
According to Prebble Ramswell, the president of the advisory board, the location of the new school will be announced in a few weeks and the board will continue to raise the funds needed to staff and stock the new school.
Now that the charter application is approved, the county school board has 30 days to come up with a charter contract. Once the charter school board receives it, they’ll have a set amount of time to review and edit it before sending the final contract in for approval. If the county school board approves the contract, the school will officially get the green light.
That means the governing board will start designing the curriculum and search for a principal, faculty and staff.
The school plans to open for the 2020/2021 school year with enrollment limited to grades 9 and 10.
According to the charter application, 175 students are projected to enroll in grade 9 and 100 students in grade 10 during the first year, for a total of 275 students.
There are currently about 180 students in grade 8 at Destin Middle School, according to Okaloosa County Assistant Superintendent Steve Horton.
The maximum capacity of the new charter school would be 800 students — 200 students per grade — which the charter board hopes to reach by their fifth year of operation.
The school will be open to all Okaloosa County students at first. According to Ramswell, students from Walton County have also expressed interest in attending a Destin high school and may also be allowed to attend if enrollment is lower than expected.
“The students in Destin and their parents will continue to make choices according to what’s best for their education,” Horton said.
Most of the new school’s students are expected to come from the Destin area. Horton said as of last year, there were 650 students of high school age in the Destin zip code. If the school nears capacity, new students will be randomly selected to ensure fairness.
Preference will be given to students who are currently enrolled; siblings of a currently enrolled student; children of a member of the governing board, employee or an active duty service member and students who attend or are assigned to failing schools, according to the charter application.
Per-student funding is determined every school year, but according to Horton, the base student allocation for the 2018/2019 school year was $4,204.42.
The charter school will receive state funds one month before opening, but until then the governing board must rely on fundraising and donations to get the school started.
The board's first financial goal of $85,000 was reached earlier this year and covered various costs such as consultant fees to write the charter and provide guidance through the school’s potential opening.
The second financial goal is substantially larger — $490,000. Those funds will help pay for facility development, the hiring of staff and faculty, operational expenses, supplies and equipment.
Ramswell said the governing board’s next immediate step is to work with their financial consultant to secure a location and start construction or remodeling. The location has been narrowed down to three possibilities, said Ramswell, and they hope to have a definite answer next week.
“I can’t wait until we actually have the physical property because I feel like, for a lot of people, that tangible aspect will make such a huge difference,” Ramswell said.