Rocky Bayou Christian prepares for second year in Destin

Katie Tammen | Northwest Florida Daily News
Jewel Whittle (right) and her classmates at Rocky Bayou Christian School in Destin work on projects Tuesday morning in Leigh-Ellen Bee’s fourth grade class.

Rocky Bayou Christian School grew onto a new campus this year.

Next year, it will focus on growing and fostering the type of culture that has kept the Niceville campus flourishing since it opened in the 1970s.

Rocky Bayou expanded to Destin last summer after reaching an agreement to take over the struggling Destin Christian School.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to do school in Destin,” Rocky Bayou Superintendent Mike Mosley said. “This is a great school, a great location.”

Destin Christian Academy at First Baptist Church on Beach Drive started with a kindergarten program in 1990 and grew for several years before declining with the economy, according to longtime kindergarten teacher Susan Bell.

At its height, the school had a K-8 program, but when Rocky Bayou took over it was a K-5 program with 33 students.

Rocky Bayou tried not to make too many changes in its first year. Instead, it focused on chartering a future path, Mosley said. 

The big picture is to grow the school back to a K-8 program, but to take it slow so it can nurture the positive aspects of the school and meld them with Rocky Bayou’s educational philosophy.

“It’s a good thing for the school,” Bell said of the transition.

In addition to bringing in a sixth-grade class next year and increasing the enrollment to the mid-60s, Mosley and Principal Joe Quilit want to begin classes for students with “learning differences.”

“That’s a huge need in our area,” Mosley said.

To start, there will be one class for students who need to be in the program full time and a second one for students who might need special help in one area or another.

The school also will increase the technology available for teachers and students, including interactive smart boards and iPads.

“This will actually become our model campus for technology in the classroom,” Mosley said.

To meet the goals, Mosley said Rocky Bayou must hire four more teachers and expand into three more classrooms.

“It’s exciting to see the huge potential we have,” said Quilit, who took over as principal in January.

Despite the wishes of many parents in Destin, Mosley said Rocky Bayou is not ready to consider adding high school grades yet.

“If God were to bless us that way, we would not say no,” Mosley said with a smile.

But he cautioned that it would still be years before officials consider the idea.

“The goal for us in the near term is to get back up to the eighth grade,” he said.


Registration for Rocky Bayou Christian School’s Destin campus continues through the end of the month. For more information, call 279-3727.