- August 19, 2015
WEST ORANGE — On the evening of March 12, Orange County officials confirmed April 7 as the public hearing date to address two Orange County School Board proposals for a settlement regarding the construction of a relief school for West Orange High School. The hearing will occur as part of the Board of County Commissioners meeting at 2 p.m. in the commission chambers of the County Administrative Center at 201 S. Rosalind Ave., Orlando.
The School Board proposed two options in a March 6 letter to the county commissioners, who can accept one of the options or offer a modified proposal for the school board to approve or reject at its April 14 public meeting. A rejection would delay a possible agreement through public hearings by at least two weeks.
These options refer to the Beck Property in the West Windermere Rural Settlement, at the northeast corner of the intersection of Summerport Village Parkway and Fiquette Hancock Road on County Road 535 (Winter Garden-Vineland Road), which runs north and east of the intersection. The property is about 66 acres, two-tenths of a mile wide from east to west and a half-mile long from north to south. It is surrounded by housing communities, except for Lake Cawood across County Road 535 from the northern half of the property and the Cornerstone at Summerport shopping center at the southwest corner of the aforementioned intersection.
Also of note is Windermere Preparatory School, which is less than a half-mile east of the Beck Property. Windermere police direct traffic along County Road 535 at Windermere Prep for its arrival and dismissal times, during which traffic flow along that road is affected.
In the first option, the relief school would have a permanent capacity of 2,500 students with an on-site athletics stadium. Crews would build an 8-foot precast concrete wall with columns along the north and east property lines. Lighting would not be installed around the perimeter of the relief school practice field.
In the second option, the relief school would have a permanent capacity of 2,776 students with an athletics stadium off-site, at the Orange County Dorman Property about one mile south on Ficquette Road. Crews would put in a 6-foot black vinyl chain-link fence along the north and east property lines. Residential-style lighting would be installed around the perimeter of the relief school practice field, turn off automatically at 8 p.m. and not exceed 30 feet in height.
At the Dorman Property, a future Orange County public park site, Orange County would build a standard public high school stadium at a site to be determined in consultation with OCPS, which would provide minimum standards for the stadium. The stadium would open by July 31, 2018, with Orange County retaining title to the whole property.
Basic stadium components would include: an FHSAA regulation-size football field with field-goal posts, stadium lights, aluminum bleachers for up to 1,500 spectators, a scoreboard, a broadcast booth, FHSAA regulation track and field facilities, locker rooms, restrooms and a concession stand.
OCPS officials estimate costs of such a stadium would not exceed $5 million, with OCPS and Orange County each paying half. Orange County would bear added costs: parking lots, storm water maintenance facilities, area infrastructure and other park facilities. Orange County would name the public park but not object to appropriate signs identifying it as the home of the relief school’s athletics.
OCPS would maintain, schedule and have priority over the stadium year-round, with Orange County reimbursing 50% of maintenance costs. OCPS would coordinate with Orange County Parks and Recreation for at least two uses per year of stadium-related facilities.
The School Board proposed additional conditions for construction for both options: Crews would install a 6-foot decorative aluminum fence along County Road 535 and a black vinyl chain-link fence around the storm water retention area. Parking lot lights would be the style of the Publix lot in the Cornerstone at Summerport at a maximum height of 30 feet, with all parking and field lights complying with exterior lighting ordinances. The relief school would have subdued bells. Canopy buffer trees would be planted along both sides of the retention area to maximize buffering for neighboring properties, and building facades would have an elevation-compliant architectural style like SunRidge Middle School, at a total improvements cost of $2.5 million, which Orange County District 1 Commissioner Scott Boyd said was a $500,000 reduction from the April 2014 agreement the commissioners rejected 4-3.
The school district would consent to the County Commission considering amending Orange County’s school siting ordinance to prohibit building future public high schools in rural settlements. OCPS and Orange County staffs would work jointly to develop cooperative policies on OCPS purchases of new land for future school sites.
KEEP IN MIND
Bill Sublette, School Board chair, and Pam Gould, District 4 School Board representative, said constructing a relief school in time for 2017 could be difficult, leaving the possibility of waiting until 2018 for the relief school to open. Both have said an additional relief school for West Orange is already necessary, with a third likely needed before the second could be built in 10 to 15 years. This is because other areas in Orange County have desperate relief needs and have been waiting up to 50 years via an ineffective listing and funding process, Sublette said.
Proponents of a different solution, such as June Cole, a resident of the rural settlement and member of Citizens United for Sensible Growth, believe exceeding 2,000 students at the Beck site would be incompatible.
Although the School Board has considered alternative sites at Seidel and Tiny roads with proper zoning that construction could have begun on months ago, the Beck site best meets access and demands of current growth and through the next 10 years in terms of student populations in West Orange, Sublette said. Moreover, infrastructure and roads are not up to standards, Gould said.
Cole and Sublette agree the School Board waited too long to address West Orange relief, and all parties hope for better future cooperation between the county and School Board.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].