From elementary to high school, Destin now has it all
For the first time, Destin has a school for every grade level and all three schools survived the first few days of the school year that kicked off Tuesday.
“The first day of school is always exciting for new and returning students alike,” said Destin Elementary School Principal Joe Jannazo. “We were very glad, while remaining mindful of health and safety protocols, to be returning back to more of a normal start.”
Masks are not mandatory for the students, but health and safety “will always be our No. 1 priority,” Jannazo added.
The elementary school continues to have wellness signage, protocols and practices on campus.
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Destin Elementary, home of the Dolphins, houses pre-K to fourth grade and boasts almost 950 students, one of the largest in the Okaloosa County School District.
And all 900-plus students were back in the classroom Tuesday, with MySchoolOnline no longer an option.
“Our numbers are right in line with where we have been over the last few years,” said Jannazo, who noted that the school is planning for growth to about 980 students by year's end. “We look forward to Superintendent (Marcus) Chambers' continued vision and focus on moving into the next generation of Okaloosa schools with upgrades to our campus facilities and classrooms.”
On a more personal note, Jannazo said, “I am proud to have the opportunity to continue to serve this amazing community and I am grateful for the community’s continued support of the school. We could not do it without our tremendous community partners.”
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Destin Middle School, which serves fifth- to eighth-graders, has been in existence for 24 years and is going strong.
This year the middle school, home of the Marlins and located at the foot of the Mid-Bay Bridge, is under the helm of a new principal, Belinda Small. Small is not new to education in Okaloosa County, having served in Crestview and Niceville.
Her goal this year was to see things get back to normal in the classroom.
The newest addition to the school scene in Destin, after years effort and multiple attempts, is Destin High School on Commons Drive next to the Aquatic Center.
“It was almost overwhelming to walk in and see the auditorium full of students,” said Prebble Ramswell, president of Destin High's governing board.
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Several board members were on hand Tuesday morning as almost 300 students filed in to the home of the Sharks.
“It really hit home that we did it. … We accomplished something that so many people thought would never happen,” Ramswell said.
The possibility of a Destin High has been talked about for more than 30 years, but five years ago a group gathered and stuck with it, and on Tuesday their dream became a reality.
“The energy and excitement of everyone on campus was impossible to ignore,” Ramswell said. “Seeing students roam the halls while chatting with friends, watching faculty enthusiastically greet their classes, and volunteers bustling about offering assistance led to an energy and spirit of community like nothing I’ve experienced.”
“I think it’s super cool,” said freshman Hannah Baxley as she was walked into the building with backpack in tow on Tuesday.
Brackin Cobb, who attended South Walton High last year, said the idea of a fishing class “hooked” him.
The students weren’t the only ones excited. So was Principal Christine Cruickshank.
“I think the first day was a great day,” she said. “There were the regular first-day fixes, but that is normal in any school.”
But the best part of her day was to have all the students in the auditorium ready to get started, she said.
“Some said it couldn’t be done,” Cruickshank said.
And day one “was everything I dreamed of and more,” she said. "I will remember walking around at lunch Tuesday and Wednesday and talking with students and hearing how great their classes and teachers are.
“By day three things are running smoothly,” Cruickshank added. “It’s a great day to be a Shark."