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Beach Crab
Jul 15, 2013
Hello South Walton! We are finally following our dream and moving to Santa Rosa Beach! We have worked out all the details except for schools. We have been very involved in our children's education. Our oldest child loves academics and thrives in a challenging environment. Our youngest is following the same path, but is more social than studious! What I am wondering is where I am going to put them for high school. The Collegiate School in Niceville seems amazing, but I don't feel that the long commute would be beneficial for our family. What can you tell me about South Walton High School? I would specifically welcome any information on AP courses and academics, but would also like to hear about the overall environment. What about Arnold High School in PCB? Can anyone share any information on the collegiate school there and the environment at Arnold? This will be our first experience with public school and I am concerned that my oldest will have a hard time adjusting. She is more of an introvert and really likes a disciplined, structured environment. Any school suggestions, opinions, or information regarding SW Schools would really be appreciated. We will be putting our name in the lottery at Seaside, but don't want to count on that. Thanks!!!

Matt J

May 9, 2007
If you decide to avoid the commute to Niceville (It'll be worth it, do it.) there are some things to consider about your other choices:

SWHS - depending on your families religion etc. you may want to consider birth control (19 reported pregnancies last year alone).
AHS - this high school doesn't seem to go a semester without a teacher or staff member being arrested for abuse, inappropriate conduct, you name it.


Beach Lover
Aug 10, 2012
All high schools have their issues... Drugs, drinking, teen sex, etc. It's the parental guidance and individual student who will excel and overcome peer pressure, no matter what school he/she attends.

SWHS was wonderful last year - complete turnaround from a few years ago. Administration knows your name. They care and are there to help. Teachers are easily accessible. They offer a good amount of AP classes. (They have a medical program, a new business program and they are continuing to enhance their programs each year. We knew of 2 teen pregnancies (not 19), but it didn't affect my child who kept busy w/ academics, sports, community service & a part-time job.

Collegiate HS in Niceville has a fantastic program, but yes, the commute is a problem (but there is a bus & other carpooling solutions). This is also a big, regular college campus with older students who may be exposed to things of a more mature nature.

The new Seacoast Collegiate HS in South Walton is comparable to Niceville's program except there are only 80 students on a small campus and the parents are very involved. The students formed 10 new clubs -- robotics, honor society, future medical students, music--- just to name a few, and they have been working hard to plan & handle their own fundraisers. They can participate in sports at SWHS. The teachers are available for tutoring everyday after school.
This school is awesome, sets high standards for students and there is nothing negative that I can say.

I'm not familiar w/ Arnold. The other high schools in Ft Walton, Niceville & Choctaw each have their own exceptional gifted/STEM/medical programs and are easily accessible by bus or carpooling.

SWHS combined w/ Florida Virtual or Walton Virtual online courses may be a good mix for the interim. There are a ton of AP courses offered online. The main thing is to stay involved until your child graduates to make sure he/she takes the right classes, stays ahead of the game, stays busy w/ sports/music/clubs & out of trouble.

All of the school websites and contact info are available on the Walton & Okaloosa County school websites. Hope that helps. Send private message if you want more detailed info.


SoWal Expert
Feb 15, 2005
Also, at SWHS, it is possible to take AP courses and dual enroll in a few community college classes too.
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Beach Fanatic
Feb 11, 2005
South Walton
SWHS - Have one child that graduated a few years ago from SWHS and now attends UF, her dream school. Although we desperately wanted her to go to the Collegiate High School in Niceville, a week before school started she begged us to let her go to SWHS and had good reasons. We caved. It was the best decision we ever made. She had more opportunities for growth and involvement than she could have had elsewhere. She really came out of her shell. The AP classes she took prepared her for college level classes more than the dual enrollment classes she took. Her clubs, sports, and love for her school, academic rigor, and great grades created lots of opportunity when it came to applying to college. I believe she was in a better position for college applications graduating from SWHS than if she had gone to the collegiate high school.

SWHS has come a long way in the last few years, and they continue to improve every year. They currently have about 20 AP classes that are offered, which is amazing for a school their size. In addition, new this year, they offer four dual enrollment college classes, in house, at the school during the school day. My son is taking two college English classes this year. Two college history classes are also offered. More will be offered in the future. The goal for the school is make it easy for those students that want to earn an AA degree when they graduate from high school. This can be accomplished by combining, AP credit, in house dual enrollment college classes, college classes from the local NWFSC annex next door and in Niceville. Of course, FLVS is also available to students at SWHS too. Lots of options! If you'd like to learn more about what SWHS has to offer, I recommend you talk with the Assistant Principal, James Ross. He and the staff at SWHS have been great to work with.

SWHS is a pretty small high school. The teachers and staff all know the kids' names and if you have an issue are easy to talk to and work willing to work with you. There are some amazing teachers at the high school and really want the school to be top notch. Also, since it's the school that will be in your backyard, you'll get to know the parents and students there and see them around town. You'll get to know your child's friends easier and know what type of guidance they get at home. It will also help you make friends in the community. Unlike a bigger town, you won't go a day without seeing someone you know at the grocery store, your favorite lunch spot, or the local Tom Thumb!

I'm skeptical about the 19 pregnancies number. I've heard of the normal few, but definitely don't view it as an issue I even think about.

Seacoast High School - Looks like a great program. Keep in mind that for their 11th and 12th grade year, these students will most likely be taking classes at the NWFSC Niceville campus, so the commute is still an issue.

Arnold - I know a couple of kids that have gone there for various reasons - ROTC, engineering, etc. All have been very happy with it. It's a much bigger school than SWHS.

Good luck with your move and your school decision. You have lots of options to find the best fit for your family and that's a good thing!


Beach Crab
Jul 15, 2013
Thank you so much for the great information. I really appreciate your replies! It definitely helps ease our mind about educational choices.
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