PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Despite the news that Digital Domain is closing its Port St. Lucie facility, education leaders said they were confident digital media programs at local schools and Indian River State College would continue.
Many of the programs, such as IRSC's Digital Media Institute and Web design programs at area high schools, were in place years before the Academy Award-winning digital effects and animation company moved to the region.
"The college partners with many other digital media firms, as well as companies and organizations that hire employees for a wide variety of media projects, and we will continue to prepare students for these jobs," said Michelle Abaldo, IRSC's director of institutional advancement.
High schools in Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties all have agreements with IRSC in digital media, Web design and related studies to award college credit for courses already passed in high school, when students continue to pursue the same career interests at IRSC.
Schools also offer free testing to earn national certifications in Adobe Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver — software used, respectively, to manipulate digital images, create animation and build websites.
In May 2011, John Textor, who resigned Thursday as Digital Domain's CEO, spoke to the St. Lucie County School Board about his company possibly developing a partnership with the school district which would include programs at the high schools and opportunities to train teachers.
"We're here, we want to be a good neighbor," he said at the time.
St. Lucie County School District Spokeswoman Janice Karst said in a written statement Friday that some Digital Domain staff spent time before the 2011-12 school year "working with some of our high school career and technical teachers reviewing the design software our programs utilize."
"Friends at Digital Domain have been a wonderful source of information about the future of digital design for the St. Lucie County School District," Karst said. "We certainly hope the company will continue to be active on the Treasure Coast to be a resource for this expanding industry for our students."
Digital Domain leased temporary space from IRSC in the Kight Center for Emerging Technologies on the Fort Pierce campus, Abaldo said. In January 2011, the college started offering three digital media bachelor's degrees.
"Since coming to the area, Digital Domain has hired many highly skilled IRSC graduates," Abaldo said. "We are very disappointed to learn that the company will now cease operation in Port St. Lucie and will be laying off employees."
Three years ago, Digital Domain donated software to The Pine School, a private school in Martin County where Textor's children attend. The software is used in a digital storytelling class now in its third year, said Shawna Gallagher Vega, the school's director of communications and public relations.
"The closing in no way effects that because the class is completely self-administered," Gallagher Vega said. "They were kind enough to offer us the software but we've purchased our own equipment."