Like most everything surrounding the West Orange relief high school, even choosing the school’s permanent name did not take place without controversy.
And for good reason.
Last week, West Orange residents and politicians simultaneously applauded and criticized the Orange County School Board’s decision to name the school Windermere High School. It’s a fine name, for sure. One that sounds upscale, rooted and steeped in history. We’re certain it will sell some houses.
But, it’s also entirely inappropriate for this school and, ultimately, will be the source of great confusion for decades to come.
On the surface, one would assume — and rightly so — that little boys and girls growing up within the town of Windermere will look forward to one becoming a Windermere Wolverine.
Nope! Those children will become Olympia Titans.
You read that right: Few — if any — students from Windermere proper are zoned for the relief school. Those students still are zoned for Olympia High School, as they have been since that school opened to relieve West Orange and Dr. Phillips.
Apparently, this mildly inconvenient fact — along with the unanimous opposition of the Windermere Town Council — was not enough to sway the Orange County School Board, which finalized the decision Oct. 11.
School Board members cited the results of a survey asking community members for their input. In that survey, Windermere High School received 39.3% of the votes. By comparison, the second-place Lake Butler High School received 22.4%, and Horizon High School received 21.6%.
Those numbers sound convincing — nearly 17% of survey participants preferred Windermere High School. However, the survey only garnered 4,051 ballots for the top three choices. Translation: 1,912 people voted for Windermere High School. Second-place — and, we believe, the better choice — Lake Butler High School received 1,087.
That’s a difference of 825 votes — not enough of a reason to sentence the West Orange community to a lifetime of confusion.
Here’s another pre-Windermere High argument: Many students who are zoned for the school and live in unincorporated Orange County at least have a Windermere mailing address. But using that logic, Olympia, Dr. Phillips, Freedom, Timber Creek and even East River High — way over in east Orange County — could have all just been named Orlando High, because they all have Orlando mailing addresses.
But let’s be honest. We understand the idea of branding and why this name appealed to so many parents who voted and lobbied for the name. In fact, we did something similar by naming our newspaper that serves Southwest Orange County the Windermere Observer. What hypocrites! And, hey, Windermere Prep — the private school literally around the corner from the relief school — also is not located within the town limits of Windermere, either.
So maybe we should lighten up?
It’s not the same, unfortunately.
Our newspaper does cover the town of Windermere — and Windermere happens to be the only municipality within the coverage area for that newspaper.
As for Windermere Prep, it’s a private school, so they could have called it Hogwarts Prep if they so chose. Furthermore, children from within the town limits of Windermere actually can attend the school.
And that really is the heart of the problem. It’s not that the school is being named for a municipality within its zoning that represents only a small percentage of the student body. It’s that the school will not represent the town from which it stole its name.