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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 7 months ago

OCPS committee to draw new School Board district lines

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Members nominated 17 residents to a Reapportionment Advisory Committee to create a more equitable map that was last updated following the 2000 Census, before the growth in Horizon West.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

A 17-member committee made up of Central Florida business men and women has been meeting regularly to learn about the seven districts that make up the Orange County School Board. They were selected by board members to equalize the districts that have become lopsided as growth continues at a rapid pace in certain areas, such as Pam Gould’s District 4.

The Reapportionment Advisory Committee’s goal is to better balance the number of students in each School Board district.

The committee is meeting in each of the seven districts and discussing one at a time. The group met Wednesday, Oct. 20, at Windermere High School to talk about District 4, which includes most of the schools in West Orange County. A handful of schools in Winter Garden and Ocoee are in Melissa Byrd’s District 7.

The districts are redrawn the year following a U.S. Census, when population changes are recorded. Prior to the 2020 census, the last one was taken in 2010 — before the rapid growth in Horizon West. The purpose of this committee is to draw the district lines for each School Board member; it is not to redraw the attendance zones of the schools. It was stressed at the meeting that parents need not worry that their children might be rezoned to another school.

There are three main redistricting criteria: Equal Population, Federal Anti-Discrimination Law and consideration of the “Traditional Redistricting Principles” — compactness; contiguity; preservation of political subdivisions, communities of interest and corers of prior districts; and avoiding pairing incumbents.

Part of the committee’s role is to look at maps and school feeder patterns and decide which communities should stay together in a district.

It is important to create as much equity as possible in resources and other factors among all districts, said committee chair Diego “Woody” Rodriguez.

“I’m always a firm believer (that) the free and reduced meals is a good indicator,” he said.

Thomas Moore, a demographer for Orange County Public Schools, said in the last decade, Orange County Public Schools has gained more than 12,100 students and built 11 new schools.

Krista Carter, vice president of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce and one of the 17 committee members, said in 2019, 53% of all building permits in Orange County were in Horizon West.

Moore said Village I, another community within Horizon West, remains to be built. This will bring thousands more students to District 4.

Future growth can be determined by looking at the development plans being presented to the county and municipalities — whether it’s single family, multi-family, high-rise or another option.

To explain the disparity of school placement in the districts — as determined by growth — Moore said six of OCPS’ 22 high schools currently are in District 4. Each district should have three or four, he said.

Another factor to consider is where the students live. For example, he said, Dr. Phillips High is in District 4, but not all of the students who attend actually live in the district. A majority of the students attending West Orange High, in District 4, live in District 7.

Residents can participate in the RAC meetings virtually or in person to voice their opinions on how the lines are drawn. For information, visit bit.ly/3Gjm9CT. Anyone with questions can email [email protected].

The School Board has until Dec. 31 to approve the adjustments to the district boundaries and the new district map.

 

 

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Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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