County, district garner resident input for Dr. Phillips relief high school

Orange County hosted the first of two community meetings last week on the proposed relief high school.

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  • | 6:47 p.m. September 19, 2016
  • Southwest Orange
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DR. PHILLIPS Residents and West Orange community members gathered in Sand Lake Elementary’s cafeteria Wednesday, Sept. 7, to offer their input on plans for the future relief school for Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools.

Representatives from Orange County and Orange County Public Schools sought input from residents in what was the first of two community meetings held by the county regarding the school.

In July, OCPS hosted its own meeting at Dr. Phillips High at which it presented plans for a relief high school. The new school is projected to open in 2022 in to relieve projected severe overcrowding at both Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools.

The potential school site is located on 50 acres east of Apopka-Vineland Road and south of Fenton Street, near the Dr. P. Phillips Community Park. Both DPHS and Freedom currently are overcrowded: DPHS’ permanent program capacity is 2,799 and is currently at 3,593 students enrolled; Freedom’s capacity is 2,606 and currently enrolls 3,438. Projected enrollment at the two schools by the time the relief school would open is 4,317 and 3,797, respectively.

The new school would have a permanent program capacity of 2,776, and OCPS already is planning to request portables as it foresees future need as Dr. Phillips grows. And because the property is only 50 acres — the standard for high schools is 65 — OCPS has said that at least one of the school’s buildings could be as tall as six stories.

The first step in the process toward making the new school a reality is the rezoning process. Currently, the majority of the property is labeled as a rural-country estate (R-CE) zone. A small portion of it is already a planned development (PD) zone. OCPS is requesting the whole property be rezoned to PD to allow for development of the school.

What sets the process of gathering community input for this relief school apart from that of the current West Orange relief school is that OCPS does not yet own the land. Therefore, residents have the opportunity to voice their concerns before land is purchased.

“It’s refreshing to see that this land will be rezoned prior to OCPS actually owning the land,” said Ricardo Cumberbatch, a Windermere resident. “It’s great because it gives everyone here input on that rezoning process.”

Orange County District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd said one of the positives of this situation is the county’s ability to work closely with OCPS on mitigating some of the impacts the school would have on the surrounding neighborhood.

“It gave the County Commission a say in listening to you all as the process moves forward, and that’s what we’re here for,” Boyd said. “At the same time, OCPS does have the responsibility of looking for school sites. We have a good working relationship and the impacts of schools, obviously with traffic, are very important and a concern for everyone. We take it very seriously, OCPS takes it very seriously, and we do everything we can to make sure we manage that.”

Increased traffic was a top concern among residents in attendance. There are also plans for a relief middle school in the same area as the proposed high school. Sand Lake Elementary is nearby the two, as well. Residents were concerned about the future traffic generated by the three schools.

Access to the school would come in the form of a new road connecting Apopka-Vineland Road and Palm Parkway. Construction on this new road was slated to begin this year but has been pushed back to the first quarter of 2017. 

Other concerns included the possibility of bike lanes for students’ safety, environmental preservation and plans for stormwater drainage, which would likely flow into Big and Little Sand lakes. 

Boyd plans to host one more meeting before OCPS moves forward with its rezoning request. The time and date for this meeting have not yet been set.


Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].


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