With the opening of two West Orange-area relief high schools just 18 months away, Orange County Public Schools is gearing up for the necessary rezonings that will be incurred.
For the Horizon West area, Site 113-H-W-4 off Seidel Road will provide relief primarily for Windermere High School. And in the Dr. Phillips area, Site 80-H-SW-4 near South Apopka-Vineland Road will do the same for Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools.
The timelines for both relief schools were pushed up last year from 2022 to 2021 due to increasing growth.
On Wednesday, March 4, parents, students and community members are invited to participate in a community meeting that will give them the first look at what the rezonings for both schools could look like. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. that night at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, 445 W. Amelia St., Orlando.
“What they can expect is to see a first blush of what the staff is recommending based on the data that they have,” said District 4 School Board Member Pam Gould. “Often, they’re very aware of how communities are set up and which way roadways go … but sometimes there are some nuances that are not as apparent. … That’s where the community really gets a chance to come in on the map.”
According to a rezoning process timeline from OCPS, schools that could be impacted by Site 80-H-SW-4’s opening include Boone, Cypress Creek, Dr. Phillips, Freedom and Oak Ridge high schools. For Site 113-H-W-4, those schools include West Orange and Windermere high schools.
"At the community meeting, staff present explains the rezoning process, how to provide input for the School Board to review and the options," said Lorena Arias, public information officer for OCPS. "Staff answers questions that the community has and listens to concerns. No decisions are made."
Gould said one of the main differences between the two relief high schools is the residential densities in the areas they will be serving. Additionally, Horizon West saw the opening of Windermere High in 2017, but those near Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools haven’t seen a new high school in years.
“I think they know that the school is there to serve the growth in those areas,” Gould said. “For the Seidel Road site that’s going to really relieve Windermere High, I don’t think it’s as much of a mystery as it probably is for those for Dr. Phillips and Freedom who haven’t had a high school come along in a long time. I think for them it’s probably more of a nail-biter.”
Gould said the difference lies in the density. In Horizon West, most of the growth is new. Closer to the Dr. Phillips area, Gould said, it’s more of a backfill growth.
“Horizon West is so dense, and the idea is to have schools in the neighborhood,” she said. “That’s probably the difference, is that whole planned-community density versus (where) we’re seeing generational change and backfill and zoning changes. A lot of what’s along Central Florida Parkway and those streets off (International) Drive and on the south side were all going to be timeshares and hotels, and now they’re becoming multifamily and residential. You’re seeing just a different need, and we need something between the two schools.”
No two rezonings are exactly alike, Gould said, due to the nature of roadway infrastructure and neighborhood setups.
“There’s just a lot of factors that go into it,” she said. “We want the community engaged in this so that they understand how zones are chosen, and we certainly want to make sure that we don’t miss any bits of data that are important to making that decision. The more people that can come and engage, the better.”