DR. PHILLIPS By 2022, Dr. Phillips could have a new, six-story high school to relieve overcrowded Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools.
More than 50 people and Orange County staff gathered in the Dr. Phillips High auditorium Wednesday, July 27, to discuss the relief school, which would be located on 50 acres just east of Apopka-Vineland Road and south of Fenton Street.
A relief school has been long in the works for DPHS and Freedom. DPHS has a permanent program capacity of 2,799, while Freedom’s is 2,606. For the 2015-16 school year, DPHS had 3,593 students enrolled, and Freedom had 3,438. Projected enrollment at the two schools by the time the relief school would open is 4,317 and 3,797, respectively.
Tyrone Smith, senior administrator in the facilities department for Orange County Public Schools, said OCPS researched several properties back in 2006 and recently began the process again. Out of eight options to choose from, Smith said this one met most, if not all, of the county’s criteria to become a school site.
Smith said the location and its access set it apart from the other potential sites, adding that of the options provided, it was the least disruptive to residential areas. Additionally, other properties were too far north to help Freedom High.
However, the site still has a way to go before further design and construction planning can begin. OCPS first has to close on the land and modify the current zoning. Most of the site is located in rural/country estate (R-CE) zoning, with a small portion in planned development (PD) zoning. To serve as a high school, the site’s zoning needs to be modified to full PD.
Additionally, OCPS needs to request waivers from Orange County Code to reduce minimum required lot area from 65 to 50 acres, to increase the building height to 84 feet, and to receive an exemption from standards for public use, as part of Buena Vista North district standards.
The new school would be 400,000 square feet and, if OCPS receives the waiver, up to 84 feet (or about six stories) tall. With a student capacity of 3,500, the school also would have about 410 parking spaces and room on campus for car lines.
Located in the South Florida Water Management District, the site’s stormwater design still will comply with state and county requirements in that water-quality treatment will be provided with on-site facilities, and off-site discharge will be required.
Fenton Street is ceasing to exist and a new, four-lane connector road will run south of the school from Apopka-Vineland to Palm Parkway, allowing two access points at the new school.
The divided road will have turn lanes at access points, and signals at Apopka-Vineland are slated to be updated. Construction on the new road will begin later this year.
Rick Baldocchi of Orange County Planning and Development said project afternoon peak-hour trips would total 455, an increase of 305 trips from the current zoning.
“I think this is a jewel in the Dr. Phillips cap,” said OCPS School Board District 4 Member Pam Gould. “Traffic aside — we all have to live in traffic, especially as the county becomes more urbanized — to have an amazing educational complex where the kids are together, the communities are together, it’s going to be a neat little asset.”
Many residents said they were concerned about the plans to make the school six stories tall.
“We’re in the process of revamping our public school-siting ordinance with the county and are proposing smaller schools, which come with taller buildings,” Smith said. “That seems to be the trend nationally, to not be building these sprawling campuses but rather more compact and high-tech. It’s exciting for us as pioneers and engineers and architects to be the first ones to do this in Orange County.”
Other resident concerns included impact on nearby property values and whether both Dr. Phillips demographics and current overcrowding numbers show a need for a relief school. Because plans are in their fledgling stages and it takes about two-and-one-half years to build a high school, some residents wondered if there was enough time to open by 2022.
An application for the Technical Review Group has been submitted and found sufficient for review. After the community meeting and gathering residents’ thoughts and concerns July 27, the project is headed to the TRG meeting. From there, it would go to separate meetings with the Development Review Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners before design and construction could begin.
Another community meeting is slated for Aug. 17, with time and location to be announced.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].