DESTIN — A steering committee’s confidence that their dream of establishing a high school in the city was bolstered Tuesday when about 200 people squeezed into a hot room at Destin United Methodist Church's Life Center and didn’t leave until all the questions they’d come armed with were answered.
“The community support has been unreal. It has confirmed our belief from the beginning that this is something we need and support,” committee chairwoman Prebble Ramswell told the crowd.
The committee was able to announce that its research had determined that 200 youths in each of the age groups that will be targeted by the four-year school — which is planned to open in 2020 to ninth- and 10th-graders and expand from there — live in Destin.
Original plans to educate between 600 and 800 students have been expanded to the point where discussions are being held with the Okaloosa County School District about possibly housing as many as 1,000, Ramswell said.
The group said it continues to work to close the sale for Destin United Methodist, and hopes to get funding by September, Ramswell said.
Plans call for supplementing the state-required curriculum the public charter school will offer with certificate programs in Destin-centric specialties like hospitality, defense and marine biology. AP classes for college-bound students will also be offered, and talks have begun with Northwest Florida State College about shared curriculum opportunities.
Sports will also be a high priority. Committee member Sarah Stone said a Destin High School “may not start with every sport,” but added “to come together as a community we need to have sports.”
The committee pledged to gauge the interests of its student body before deciding which sports will be offered first. There were also hints that a certain NFL owner with ties to the area might be convinced at some point to chip in to help create “Friday night lights” in Destin.
Ramswell said discussions have begun with city officials to make use of the Destin Elementary School track, in which it has an ownership interest. Committee members also spoke of using the Morgan Sports Center for field sports.
Stone said the committee is convinced it has allocated enough seats within the school to accommodate every Destin child interested in attending. If not, a lottery will be held.
By state law, if the new high school does require an admission lottery it will hold two. Okaloosa County students with a Destin address will be the first to gain entry and Walton County children will be included in a second lottery.