School Advice

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by flapjack, Jun 3, 2008.

  1. flapjack

    flapjack Beach Crab

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    We are relocating to the Seagrove area. I have 2 elementary-aged kids who are bright and in a wonderful academic/creative private school. Would like to figure out best schools path for them, whether public or private. What are best options -- elementary, middle and high. Tests scores are somewhat important. Ideas, please. I am not willing to make the move if the education is not there.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Camp Creek Kid

    Camp Creek Kid Christini Zambini

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    If you live in Seagrove, you will be zoned for Bay Elementary School, which is just 4 miles up 395 (and very close by for SoWal standards). It is a wonderful small school that has the feel of a private school with a lot of parent involvement. All of the FCAT scores are not out yet, but the 3rd grade at Bay had the highest overall test scores of any 3rd grade in the county. Bay's first year as a K-5 school was last year and it received an "A+" rating. Butler is also a good school, but you will not be zoned for Butler (but your kids can also go there).

    South Walton Montessori Academy has moved to Point Washington, and is near Bay Elementary. We've had personal experience with this school and enjoyed it, but couldn't afford it with 3 kids in the school.

    For middle school, a beautiful new middle school (Emerald Coast) is planned for the intersection of HWY 98 and HWY 395. The school is scheduled to open in 2 years. Emerald Coast is currently located behind Butler Elem. in an addition that will become part of Butler once the new school is built. Another option is Seaside Neighborhood School which is a charter middle school that is one of the top 10 middle schools in Florida. Enrollment is by lottery--some years chances are good, some years not.

    South Walton High School is new and small. Overall it is a good school with an "A" rating.

    There are a few other private schools in outlying communities. However, I think you'll be satisfied with the school choices in South Walton. For a small rural area, many families are very well educated and have high expectations for quality education.
     
  3. ElitoDJ

    ElitoDJ Beach Comber

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    My daughter went to Seaside Middle School. She has now graduated from high school and attending college. Looking back on her education I think Seaside was the key to her success. Seaside is the kind of school you are looking for but it starts with 6th grade. We now have a Montessori school at Pt. Washington. (K-5) It would have been nice to have that option when my daughter was that age. However, I think both elementary schools are good. Bay Elementary is certainly in the most beautiful area. It is very peaceful and quaint.
     
  4. seagrovegirl

    seagrovegirl Beach Fanatic

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    I agree....Seaside Neighborhood school was wonderful. Bay Elem. is sweet and the Montessori School, I have heard, is amazing as well.
     
  5. flapjack

    flapjack Beach Crab

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    ElitoDJ, what high school did you daughter attend?

    Thanks for all the great advice. Makes me feel better.

    Looked online but can't find numbers. Any idea of tuition at Seaside and Montessori?
     
  6. BeachSiO2

    BeachSiO2 Beach Fanatic

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    Seaside is a public charter school and thus free. Someone else will chime in about the Montessori but I know it has financial aid.
     
  7. wrobert

    wrobert Beach Fanatic

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  8. mdd88jd

    mdd88jd Beach Lover

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    Okay, as a school board member, maybe I should jump in here. All of the public school is south Walton are excellent. The charter middle school and the Montessori are outstanding by all accounts. But, I do not think you can go wrong with any of the public schools.
     
  9. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    I'd call the schools here good but not great. But then I'm picky and don't think that there's any truly great school in the central time zone part of Florida.

    Top tier of graduating students in the high schools here will tyipcally go on to a perfectly good flagship state school, but you don't see much in the way of students headed toward the US News top 25 national schools.

    Not bad by any means, but you're not going to find a New Trier or Grosse Pointe level school district in the FL Panhandle.
     
  10. SGB

    SGB Beach Fanatic

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    We've had 2 go through Butler, then at Seaside, and 1 going to SWHS next year. We have been very involved in our children's education (sometimes they think too involved!) and their schools. All of the schools have been very welcoming and appreciative of parent involvement. The great thing about getting involved in the schools here is that they are still very small compared to most places and the work that you do really does make a difference. In our experience, your child's education is directly tied to what you make of it. Every year it's getting better thanks to the parents that have gone before you. Jdarg, the Buzzetts, and many others are prime examples.

    We are also finding that Florida offers so many options when it comes to high school. There is SWHS, dual enrollment with OWC (free college classes), the Florida virtual school (also free and for lower grades as well), and the collegiate high school at OWC. Florida really is very generous when it comes to higher education. There are so many programs available to lower the cost of going to college. If your child qualifies for Bright Futures, you've got it made if they go to a Florida college.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  11. Camp Creek Kid

    Camp Creek Kid Christini Zambini

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    I would say that the reason students go to a state school rather than an Ivy League is because of choice, not because the quality of their education is sub-par. I have personal experience observing that students from several top tier prep schools (in another state), still choose to attend local state schools closer to home. I don't know--maybe their parents spend all of their education money on private prep school tuition. The top 25 schools are prohibitively expensive, especially the state schools if you don't have residency.

    Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and other Ivy Leauge schools have restructured their tuition rates so that basically every undergraduate students receives a scholarship and many don't pay any tuition at all. This should allow any student, who has the grades, test scores, etc., to have a shot at an Ivy League School. I disagree that where one goes to high school has any impact on admission to a top school.
     
  12. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    Part of it is that I'm also rather down on higher ed in Florida right now because it was massively underfunded on a per-student basis even before the recent budget cuts to the point that educational quality was suffering, and it's only getting worse in the short term. I've talked to a couple of tenured UF faculty, and the only state school they'd consider sending their kids to is New College, which is not the right place for every student.

    As for the prep school kids and state schools, sometimes you get specialty programs in certain schools that are far better than the school as a whole, or they offer a program of study that's not commonly offered. A good school counselor knows some of those kinds of regional specialties, and can research the best darn meteorology programs in the country when they have a student walk into their office saying they want to be a hurricane researcher.
     
  13. Garner

    Garner Beach Fanatic

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    A lot of great things are going on in this thread -
    Both Butler and Bay are great elementary schools with a boatload of parental support. Bay is quite a bit smaller than Butler, making it, in my opinion a little bit sweeter. However, Butler has many fabulous teachers and programs for their students. If your children like art, the program at Butler is beyond compare. The work my son did in 5th grade is miles better than what he's doing at Emerald Coast. But then, ECMS has not had much in the way of art. I believe that will change next year.

    Emerald Coast and Seaside are two very different schools, each with a strong focus on academics. As the former PTO president at ECMS, I must say that I am partial to ECMS. It is larger than Seaside and offers a lot more choices in electives as well as a lot of different sports teams and clubs for the students. Seaside's admission is by lottery for those who don't qualify by other criteria, which include siblings, child of a teacher and child of a board member. Before ECMS opened up, the middle school was part of the high school and wasn't very good. At that time, getting into Seaside was very important to a lot of families. Now, I hear many parents and students say that they'll do the Seaside lottery, but if they don't get in and go to ECMS that is fine. I know of several students who have transferred from Seaside to ECMS because it wasn't the right fit. I strongly urge you to look at each school; they are both outstanding.

    The high school is getting better each year. The current principal has been there a couple of years and the focus on academics has become much more prevalent. Next year both of my sons will be there. Because of its small size relative to most public high schools (about 600 students) it doesn't offer as many AP classes or the variety of electives as others. But, as someone pointed out in an earlier thread, there are options. Additionally, Okaloosa Walton College will build a campus almost adjacent to the high school. They say it will be open in 2 years, but I haven't seen much dirt moving.

    As was mentioned in an earlier post, most students from South Walton High School go to Colleges and Universities associated with the State of Florida. One reason for that is the Bright Futures scholarship money. If your child has a 3.5 gpa, good test scores, community service and no trouble, he or she can go to a Florida school free. However, the Ivies and other prestigious, selective colleges and universities have tremendous financial aid packages. I took my son and his friend to look at colleges in New England several weeks ago and was very pleased. MIT for example does not charge tuition at all if the household income is less than $75,000 per year. Amherst says that they are more generous than that. Brown and the other ivy league schools do not offer academic or athletic based scholarships; the funding is entirely based on need. All of these institutions separate their application approval process from the financial aid process, in other words, the application is "needs blind".

    An interesting thing that I learned from these schools is that they consider how the student works within the constraints of the high school. For example, South Walton only offers about 10 AP courses. A student applying to Brown, for example from South Walton who took (and did well in) 8 of the 10 courses will be favorably considered, as the student clearly took advantage of the academic opportunities presented.

    Sorry to have been so long-winded on this reply, but clearly, education is important to me and my family.
     
  14. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    OWC (or whatever it calls itself starting next fall) seems to still have plans for the SoWal campus, though the timeline might be a little soft because of other major construction projects on the main campus.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  15. SGB

    SGB Beach Fanatic

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    Great info Garner. I didn't realize about the financial aid at the Ivies and how the AP classes are considered. I've learned so much about each level of school as our oldest graduates from one to another. The best and most relevant information comes from other parents that have already done it. You have no idea how valuable this is until you're faced with making some hard decisions about high school.

    Regarding where kids go after high school, the Florida Department of Education compiled some numbers for me. The numbers don't yet include this year's graduates, many of which I know are going on to great things with their education.

    For SWHS, the percent of kids going on to continuing education has gone up substantially every year. In 2002-03 it was 45%. in 2005-06 it was 63%. For comparison, Niceville has 68% of their kids going on to continuing education. Their number is stable at 67-68% for the last 4 years. Of the 68% from SWHS, last year 76% went to community college, the rest to a public university. There could have been a very few that went elsewhere, but once the numbers get below a few percent, they don't include them. Arnold high school has about the same statistics for this as SWHS. Niceville has more going to a public university at 39%. As Garner said, these numbers partially reflect how financially attractive it is to send your child to a Florida school. Unless you have a child that knows exactly what they want to be and needs to go to a school that excels in that specialty, it's pretty hard to justify going to a private school (unless of course you can get the financial aid that Garner mentioned) or an out of state school.

    If you ever want to know statistics about schools, the Florida Department of Education is great at either putting them on their website, where a ton of queries can be made, and if you can't find it there, you can email them and they'll get the info for you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2008
  16. flapjack

    flapjack Beach Crab

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    Is South Walton High School the only high school option? Is there a private school option? If I were not happy with the public high school, what other choice would I have?

    Just so I am clear. Thanks.
     
  17. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    There's a public charter high school in Niceville at Okaloosa-Walton College for grades 10-12 that draws high achievers. It would be a pretty serious commute from Seagrove though.

    The normal public schools you could waiver into (Freeport, maybe some of the Bay County schools) aren't as good as SoWal, IMO.
     
  18. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    No other option in the county- we don't exactly have a large population. Be prepared to drive, and and I mean REALLY drive, if you want a private high school option.

    Or, take the leap of faith like many of us from larger cities and private schools and public school systems did, and go to OUR high school, be involved, and relish in the fact that we live HERE!
     
  19. CPort

    CPort Beach Fanatic

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    the above is what keeps public schools top notch!
     
  20. ShallowsNole

    ShallowsNole Beach Fanatic

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    And - though the past has very little bearing on the present - we're pretty lucky to have South Walton High School. 8 years ago, we didn't. I know the parents in Panama City Beach say the same about Arnold. 10 years ago, there wasn't a high school in close proximity to Hwy 98 between Fort Walton Beach High School and Bay High School in downtown Panama City. SoWal kids went to Freeport (not that there's anything wrong with that :roll:).
     

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