Busses to Niceville: Destin youth council gets closer to new choice zoning policy

Savannah Vasquez | The Log

The first step has been taken by the Destin youth council in their quest to see free transportation provided to Niceville High School students who reside in Destin, but there is still another hurdle to cross before they will see if their efforts have proved successful.

 “The students have already done their part by making a recommendation to the city council, so now that will be presented to the school board and they will have to decide if and when they will discuss that issue,” said City Clerk Rey Bailey. “It’s up to the school board now as to whether or not they will take the recommendation but the resolution will be given to the school board just to let them know that Destin supports this initiative.”

Members of the youth council presented a resolution to the city council in December of last year detailing that because of a choice zoning policy in Destin busses are only provided to Fort Walton Beach High School. The resolution explained that approximately 124 Destin students currently attend Niceville High School and must either find their own rides or pay an expensive shuttle fee in order to get to school.

The document explored reasons the Okaloosa County School Board should reconsider it’s choice zoning policy stating that the policy is 20 years old and was created before the Mid-Bay bridge was constructed which  connects Destin to Niceville. Considering the Mid-Bay bridge as an option, the commute between Destin and Niceville High School is now equidistant to that of Destin and Fort Walton Beach High School.

On Jan. 20, the Destin city council voted unanimously in support of the resolution, a sign of hope for the student’s hard work.

“The resolution shows the City’s support in the youth council’s initiative,” said Public Information Manager Doug Rainer. “This is just one of the steps that the youth council is taking in their hopes for new choice zoning policies. We are happy for the progress they’ve made and the council’s vote shows that they support the initiative.” 

Max Van Belkum, who serves as the chairman for the youth council, has been tirelessly working on the resolution for the past two school years. He told The Log that as a group, the youth council is grateful for the City’s support and hopeful that with this resolution in hand, the school board will approve their proposal.

 “We all feel a sense of accomplishment in influencing an official act of legislation, but what is more important to us is that we get the resolution passed in the Okaloosa County School Board and the community benefits,” he said. “The end goal would be a vote of acceptance by the Okaloosa County School Board to aid in providing public transportation for Niceville High School bound Destin students.”