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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 8 months ago

UCP purchasing land for new campus

The new UCP of Central Florida campus in Winter Garden will have more space and is adding sixth through eighth grades.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

Big changes are coming to UCP West Orange Charter School in Winter Garden, now that the purchase is being finalized on an eight-acre piece of land on County Road 535. A new and larger campus will provide the school with greater capacity and an enhanced educational experience for both special needs and general education students.

United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida's Winter Garden facility is moving just north of its current location at 1297 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Suite 112. The school serves 170 children in prekindergarten through fifth grade, and about 70% of the students have a disability and are receiving educational or therapy services, according to the principal, Tom Brickel.

The school is at capacity and has a waiting list, he said.

The move will give UCP the space to provide education for 250 students.

"The new campus will provide our West Orange students with the opportunity to seamlessly receive educational and therapy services during their middle school years," Brickel said. "Our families have struggled to find satisfactory school options for their students after they graduate from fifth grade. Many families of graduates, unhappy with the current selection of schools, prefer to transport their children to our TLA campus, which is near the downtown area.

"How convenient will it be for West Orange families to finally have an elementary and middle school for students with and without disabilities in the heart of Winter Garden?" Brickel asked.

Dr. Ilene Wilkins, CEO of all UCPs in Central Florida and surrounding municipalities, said the organization will ask for feedback from staff, teachers, parents and students to create a wish list.

"What do they want in a campus?" she said.

Once that's determined, then the architect firm, SchenkelShultz, will start working on the design. Brickel said construction will take up to one-and-a-half years.

The initial space will be 22,000 square feet, and there is space for future expansion of another 8,000.

UCP has been in the current space about five years. Prior to that move, the school was in the West Orange Shopping Center, on South Dillard Street, and the Winter Garden Plaza, on West Colonial Drive.

"I am truly excited at the prospect of a larger, more accommodating facility," Brickel said. "Our new facility will have some essential school features we currently lack, such as a cafeteria, a larger kitchen with ample room for our kitchen equipment, a teacher break room and rooms for diagnostic testing.

"We will also be able to design a playground/P.E. area equipped for our students in wheelchairs from the ground up," he said. ""With the increased number of classrooms, we will also be able to accommodate a greater number of students with and without special needs that are currently on our waiting list."

The new school will cost $6 million to $7 million, including the land; a capital campaign has begun, with several commitments.

"We're certainly looking for anyone who would like to get involved in the way of donations, Wilkins said. "If parents have been looking for a place and haven't been able to find one, we'll be able to accommodate them."

For information, email [email protected].

"For years, our UCP families have been waiting for the time when their kids can continue their integrated education and therapy services into the middle school years," Brickel said. "For me, it is a joy to finally tell them, 'Yes, your kids can stay with us through eighth grade.'"


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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