Have questions about the potential new Destin High School? Below are many answers as part of our ongoing updates on the progress. (Please see complete stories in Dec. 2018 and Jan. 2019 Destin Life, www.MyDestinLife.com.)
Q: Where will the school be located?
A: Destin High School will be located in Destin. The exact location has not yet been selected from our top choices. However, we are in the process of having our top three potential sites evaluated by our charter school financiers with whom we have signed a Memo of Understanding.
Q: Does Okaloosa County School District have to approve the school?
A: Yes. In Florida, charter schools are public schools and are authorized/approved by the school district. Our charter application is due on Feb. 1 and the school district has 90 days to act on the application.
Q: Can a charter school become a public school after opening as a charter?
A: Yes. Charter schools are public schools and have all of the same educational requirements as a traditional public school except they are governed by an independent governing board.
Q: Is it free?
A: Yes. Charter schools are considered public schools and are free. Florida is ranked second in the country in terms of the number of charter schools (behind California). Currently, Florida has more than 750 charter schools in 62 school districts.
Q: If the charter application is not approved, do I get my donation back?
A: No, but to facilitate charter approval, the governing board hired one of the leading charter specialists in the country. Collaborative Educational Network, Inc. (CEN) is a highly regarded and recognized team who has been working in the charter school industry for 22 years. They have near perfect approval rate on the charter applications they write (more than 95% of their applications are approved, where the state average for approval rate is 23%).
Q: What is the money going to be used for?
A: The money raised will be used to pay CEN for assisting us in writing the charter school application and working with us to get the application approved, to write the federal start-up grant, to conduct an executive search for a Principal, and to assist and guide the governing board with all the activities required to open.
CEN is not a for-profit charter management company. They charge a fee for services to assist independent governing boards with getting their school open and support the school until the board no longer needs their services (typically 2-3 years). Conversely, a charter management company would charge fees per student as long as the school is open. Those fees are typically between $350,000-850,000 per year for the life of the school. CEN’s model focuses on preparing the school for success and then ensuring that the school can use their money for educational programs.
Q: Is my child guaranteed a seat if I donate?
A: No. Preference is only given to children who are members of the governing board, siblings of students who have already been accepted, and active military families.
Q: How is the enrollment lottery handled with siblings, Destin vs. outside of Destin, Okaloosa vs. Walton?
A: A lottery is conducted only if the number of applications exceeds the number of seats available. If a lottery is needed, the above-mentioned preferences would first be given, followed by students who reside within Okaloosa county as a first priority, followed by students from surrounding counties.
Q: If seats are filled in one grade but not another, can you use empty seats from another grade?
A: In year one, the school will open to 9th and 10th graders. We anticipate having more 9th graders than 10th graders in the first year. The governing board will set the capacity by grade level.
Q: Why only 9th and 10th to start?
A: Typically, it is difficult to attract 11th and 12th grade students to a new high school. Additionally, it is difficult to offer all of the courses needed for all four grade levels in the initial and second year. However, the situation could be reevaluated based on demand and ability to meet such needs.
Q: Do you have to re-apply every year?
A: No. Once a student is accepted, he or she does not need to re-apply.
Q: Will transportation be provided?
A: Transportation will be provided for those students within a pre-determined reasonable distance – usually five miles. We will survey the students who are accepted and see if they need transportation. If so, a study will be conducted to examine students’ geographic location and potentially establish a “depot” style pick up and drop off.
Q: What sports will you have?
A: We plan on offering a full complement of sports as school enrollment grows, though we will begin with a reduced number and expand as enrollment increases. Students who attend the school (or any charter school) are also allowed to play sports at their zoned school if the school does not offer that sport.
Q: Won’t you reduce the chances of the school district building a public school?
A: Destin High School is a public school. However, our research shows that Okaloosa County has not made any plans in the near future to build another high school in or near Destin, with priority being placed on repairing existing schools.