Hope for Destin high school not dead

Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn |
The 6th/7th grade hall is a blur as students change classes and retrieve books from lockers at Destin Middle School. A proposal the Okaloosa County School Board will be considering would add two more wings like this to the school and creating a high school there.


DESTIN — Supporters of the proposed high school in the city were less than happy Monday when the Okaloosa County School Board voted to rescind its half-cent sales tax referendum.

Despite the loss of the potential funding, the advisory committee dedicated to the cause said they already have begun to formulate new ways to make a Destin high school a reality.

"Our original plan was to work with the School Board, but we're going to continue moving forward," Destin City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell said. "We already have several donators who have pledged funds."

On Oct. 11 representatives from the Destin Chamber of Commerce and the Okaloosa County School District announced their proposal for the new high school. The two organizations suggested a half-cent sales tax referendum to benefit the School District and help fund the new school.

However, following a string of controversies plaguing the district, the group responsible for raising funds for the referendum's mail-in ballots requested Monday that it be postponed. 

Destin having its own high school has been discussed for decades, but picked up after Destin Middle School opened in 1997. During the 2015-16 school year, there were 614 high school-aged students in Destin. More than 400 of them went to Fort Walton Beach High School.

Among the reasons given in the past against Destin having its own high school have been the cost of building a new school, the population being too small and the impact it would have on other high schools if the Destin students left.

Ramswell said the committee doesn't plan to rely solely on private donators. The individuals will also submit an application to Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization responsible for distributing settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon oil Spill.

"There are needs all over this county and the half-cent sales tax was going to help everybody," Ramswell said. "I'm disappointed. The need is there and the need is only going to increase. We're going to keep moving forward whether that's a charter, magnet or, at some point, a public school."