Destin High School breaks ground after "full throttle" community effort
Not even the rain could dampen the spirits of the more than 250 people who gathered Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Destin High School.
Although the ceremony was set to take place outside, festivities moved indoors to the auditorium, complete with heaped up dirt on a tarp for the dignitaries to dig their shovels.
The school, located in what was once Grace Lutheran Church on Commons Drive, is set to open for grades 9-11 in August.
Prebble Ramswell, president of the governing board for Destin High, introduced Principal Christine Cruickshank as well as acknowledged all elected officials and thanked them for coming out on a rainy day.
“This has been an effort years in the making … literally decades in the making,” Ramswell said.
She told how one of the current board members started something like this back in the 1990s and thought his daughter could be in the first graduating class. Now his granddaughter will attend the new Destin High School.
In 2016, Ramswell and others formed a committee to look into the prospect once again.
“It was sort of a mountain to climb,” she said.
But they did their research and collected data.
“Everything showed that not only was it viable but it was feasible and necessary,” Ramswell said of opening a high school.
“This has been a full-throttle community effort,” she said, noting the support from Okaloosa County and the city of Destin.
“You are going to be what makes it a reality when we open the doors,” she told the parents and students gathered Wednesday.
“I choke up because I know what it means to so many people,” Ramswell said.
Cruickshank then introduced the three speakers for the event, Okaloosa County Commissioner Chairman Carolyn Ketchel, Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis and Monica Autry, who represented the Destin Chamber of Commerce as well as Destin Water Users.
“I’m proud to stand here as chairman of the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners to acknowledge the effort that went into making this school a reality,” Ketchel said.
“It began through mama bears, wanting a closer school for their children. Don’t ever come between a mama and her children. Who’s going to win? The mothers,” Ketchel said.
With the school opening in Destin, Ketchel said students will have a choice to attend their own high school without having to cross a bridge into Fort Walton Beach or Niceville.
Ketchel then offered up a prayer of blessing over the school before Jarvis addressed the crowd.
With a big smile on his face, he said, “Isn’t it great to live in Destin.”
“I’m thankful for all the hard work,” Jarvis added, noting that there were many obstacles along the way.
“It would have been so easy to quit,” he added.
“But today is the day. ... This is the start of Destin High School,” Jarvis said.
“This place right here is going to leave its mark on the community,” he added.
Autry, a Destin native, said the Destin chamber is always working to support education and to make it a top priority.
Following the speakers, folks gathered for photos. Dignitaries along with representatives from DAG Architects and Lord and Sons Construction, which are renovating the church into the school, posed for pictures with shovels in hand.
Those who have donated monetarily to make the high school a reality got their turn at a groundbreaking photo as well. Last but not least, about 50 students had their pictures taken as the first students who will attend the new high school.
Cruickshank then gave a tour of the facility that is still under construction.