Ladybird project raises questions
Does Winter Park have enough preschools?
The issue of whether or not the city of culture and heritage has enough room for its preschoolers came up during the Winter Park City Commission meeting last Monday as Commissioners were presented with a proposal to build a new Ladybird Academy at the corner of Trovillion Avenue and Gay Road just west of U.S. Highway 17-92.
Winter Park resident and elementary school teacher Maren Boulton, a “witness” chosen to present by Ladybird Academy, spoke about how much the new preschool is needed in the area.
“I understand education and I understand how important it is,” Boulton said. “My son is a little over [a year old] and we’re having to look at preschools for next year when he’s 2. In Winter Park right now we have to look and get on wait lists because there are not a lot of options.”
“There’s definitely a need for preschools in the area.”
But the Commissioners couldn’t come to a consensus whether that need does exist. Options in Winter Park today include the Winter Park Day Nursery, Loving Earth Preschool and the Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center among others.
“There are very few centers that have waiting lists, but there are many right now taking the names for the kids next year without waiting lists,” said Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, who spent several years teaching kindergarten and provided oversight on early childhood programs for Orange County Public Schools. “It just depends on what you’re looking for. I don’t see that huge need.”
Any concerns of available schools in the city where overshadowed by the number of residents speaking against the project due to traffic concerns along Gay Road.
Resident Stephanie Barnes, who lives just south of the proposed project, said that additional cars filing in to pick up and drop off children will back up Gay Road even worse than it already is.
“17-92 cannot handle anymore traffic,” Barnes said. “We need to widen those roads. I know it’s a state road and so it will not get widened until the state does it, but you’ve got to have responsible development, not out of control development.”
“You’re going to back up the traffic on Gay Road which will affect all the residents here.”
Other residents were concerned about noise problems coming from the outdoor playground, despite plans to build a 6-foot wall around the project.
“I simply can’t afford to be on calls and hear children in my backyard screaming at all intervals of the day,” said Chris Laidley, who works from home and lives within sight of the proposed preschool.
“That to me is not a peaceful environment to live. I live on the second floor – a 6-foot wall is not going to buffer the sound. It’s basic physics.”
Commissioners ultimately voted against the project unanimously, claiming it wasn't compatible with the area.
“Obviously there was nobody from the neighborhood today saying, ‘Hey, build this. We can’t wait. We’ve got all these little kids,’” Sprinkel said. “Child development centers usually get built where there’s kids – that’s not what you have in this neighborhood. This is not a young neighborhood.”
“It’s not going to serve that purpose over there.”