Destin High School moves forward with new location for 2021-22 year

Special to Gannett

Destin High School (DHS) is scheduled to open for ninth- and 10th-graders, and possibly 11th-graders, next August.

The tuition-free public charter school is under contract to purchase the Grace Lutheran property, 4325 Commons Drive West, next to the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. DHS will be a model for innovation providing unique educational opportunities for college-bound and vocationally-minded students living in Destin and along the Emerald Coast.

Grace Lutheran Church on Commons Drive in Destin will be retrofitted to be the new home of Destin High School, a tuition free public charter school slated to open for the 2021-22 school year, after the closing on the property is complete in early 2021.

“We are very excited for the Destin community as the prospect of having its own high school gets closer to becoming a reality. And, we are prayerful for them as the board works to make it happen," said Mike Wind, executive director of Ministries for Grace Lutheran Church.

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The DHS Governing Board — comprised of Prebble Ramswell, Denise Fountain, Myra Williams, Sarah Stone, Heidi LoCicero, Jim Luttrell, Dr. Mitch Silver, Al Gardner and Drew Palmer — has been working to bring a high school to the area and has entered into a $4.6 million purchase contract with Grace Lutheran for the land and buildings. A closing on the property is anticipated in early 2021.

Greenwich Investment Management, based in Stamford, Connecticut, and well-versed in educational facility investments, will handle DHS’s financing of the new site.

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“The vision of opening Destin High School is about to be a reality due in large part to our donors, parents, community leaders, and our governing board," said Ramswell, DHS governing board president.

"We are thrilled to have the assistance of RoundTable Funding, whose financial advisers are highly experienced in guiding visionaries like the DHS governing board through the processes of securing charter school financing, retrofitting, project oversight and building additional school facilities. This community asset will make a positive economic impact while greatly enhancing the quality of life in Destin," Ramswell said.

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In addition to site acquisition and financing, the board also has retained the services of DAG Architects. The local architectural firm — which has designed schools across the state, including Destin Middle School — is designing site plans for the retrofit, and set forth a strategic plan to accomplish the renovation in record time.

DAG Architects, a local architectural firm that has designed schools across the state, including Destin Middle School, is designing site plans for the retrofit of Grace Lutheran into Destin High.

After a nationwide search, the board also has selected a principal for DHS to be announced in the coming weeks.

The student enrollment application period will begin in January. In addition to offering advanced and state-mandated core curriculum, DHS will utilize a place-based approach to learning that will take advantage of the local geography, industry and community. This will allow the school to offer additional curriculum opportunities through authentic, meaningful and engaging personalized learning for students, officials said.

Fundraising is a critical component of opening the school. The startup costs alone are $400,000. Long-term, the more revenue raised toward purchase cost, the less needed to be financed, thus putting additional revenue into student programming, opportunities and options. When DHS is fully operational, as with all public educational institutions, the school will receive state and federal government funding.

Area businesses and individuals can contact the DHS fundraising chairwoman and Governing Board treasurer, Sarah Stone, at 850-598-6888 or sarah@saysarah.com.

“We would like to thank the students, parents, citizens and donors that have supported the efforts to bring forth this highly desired and needed educational asset," Stone said. "We promised that the board would be working hard to move the ball across the finish line. Destin High School is happening. Now is the time for the community to step up, donate, volunteer, and take part in the plan to enhance the community educational experience for our students.”

There will be a series of small group meetings and tours at the future home of DHS. More information will be coming to keep the community and future students updated.

For additional information on registering, donating or volunteering, call 850-424-1664, email info@destinhighschool.org, or visit www.destinhighschool.org.