HORIZON WEST — West Orange residents got their first look at the elementary school planned to relieve Sunset Park Elementary in August 2016 during a community meeting July 13 at Sunset Park.
SchenkelSchultz Architecture partner David Tolbert showed plans for a 90,000-square-foot school on a 15-acre district-owned site between Powder Ridge and Quiet Meadows trails to the southwest and northeast, and between Vermillion Avenue and Silverlake Park Drive to the northwest and southeast. The two-story school would be in the center, with 41 classrooms for a capacity of 837 students. The lot can support 12 portables.
The school would change zoning for Sunset Park, Independence and possibly Keene’s Crossing elementary schools as a result.
Although residents in attendance agreed relief for Sunset Park was necessary, some disagreed with the location. Stephen Facella said the site was not proper, based on infrastructure — such as some sidewalks for students to traverse — not being ready for the proposed August 2016 opening. This would be especially true for the dangerous traffic on Reams Road, he said.
“How about we wait a year and do it at Site 25, where it should be,” Facella said. “It’s safer; we don’t have to talk about the roundabouts — we pull our children away from the roundabouts and into the neighborhood. Site 25 is inside the entryway to Royal Estates and Taborfield (Avenue). The sidewalks already exist. The infrastructure at the (proposed) site won’t be delivered until 2017. Why can’t we just wait for the infrastructure and school to both be delivered in 2017?”
Site 25 likely would not be able to accommodate a relief school until 2017, officials said.
District 4 Orange County School Board member Pam Gould said two items arose immediately when she had been elected in 2012: relief for West Orange High and Sunset Park Elementary.
“We moved up the Independence relief school by a year, and it is opening this year,” Gould said. “And we moved the second relief school at the request of a large group of this community to 2016. The school siting (presented) two choices between 25 and 117. Our staffs (decided) what location was best based on student population, egresses and entrances to the school sites, etc. Their best recommendation was to choose this site over 25 because 25 was considered kind of landlocked.”
Gould said she had not received an overwhelming call to stop this school and that School Board Chairman Bill Sublette had not recommended changing it.
Facella said counts had been inaccurate and that a correct count would indicate more students served by a school at Site 25 than the proposed site. He said he felt lied to.
Gould said both sites would be used once growth in Horizon West dictates it, only tweaking predetermined plans for that growth. In the future, the School Board might look at zoning before sites, as opposed to its current process, the reverse — but that does not change the requests of hundreds to open an elementary relief school immediately, she said. A resident said zoning should occur before sites so children such as hers would not need to switch schools twice while living in the same house.
Other residents said the proposed site was a problem based on an improbability of keeping a good traffic flow while protecting child pedestrians, mainly citing the two-lane roundabout a block east at the intersection of Silverlake Park Drive and Reams Road as the crux. Within that, Facella said Site 25 would require just one crossing guard, not the three or four county officials could struggle to find for the proposed site.
District 1 Orange County Commissioner S. Scott Boyd said a resident had presented a good idea of flashing pedestrian crossing signals, and officials are considering a 20-mph zone with flashers and narrowing some lanes near the roundabout to one.
Resident Tamara Forrester asked whether busing was possible and said traffic returning to Reams Road and Winter Garden-Vineland Road (County Road 535) would be problematic.
Gould said she had talked to Superintendent Barbara Jenkins about busing, and that plans to stack traffic in the lot instead of on local roads would be 100 times better. Tolbert said the 90,000-square-foot site could accommodate 273 parked cars and 257 stacked cars, as well as 29 buses.
Current plans include a retention pond on the west edge of the property and the parking lot to the east.
Tolbert said design and approval could finish in September, after which would be 10 months of construction.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].