- January 8, 2020
With two new relief high schools slated for 2021 openings and persistent growth permeating the area, Orange County Public Schools has been exploring rezoning options for both new and existing schools.
During a community meeting March 4 at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, dozens of parents and community members gathered to see OCPS staff present rezoning options. These included rezonings for the two relief high schools, a middle school and an elementary school, along with some targeted rezonings.
Dr. Carol McGowin, director of student enrollment at OCPS, said there are three types of rezonings: technical, targeted and relief school. The two types at hand were relief school and targeted rezonings, the latter of which affects a small area and limited number of students.
McGowin said OCPS uses a GIS mapping system, which shows them where students are living. Staff also adds to that a development layer, which depicts every known development that has gone through the city or county and will come forward at some point.
“We take the development layer, we take our known students, we take the enrollment counts at the schools, and between them we look at that and start our process,” McGowin said. “We look at neighborhoods — we want to keep neighborhoods intact — we look at the infrastructure … we do look at the distance from schools, we also look at feeder patterns. Unfortunately, I don't think I’ve ever had a rezoning where there was something out of those concepts that didn't conflict.”
Rezonings discussed at the meeting included both relief high schools opening in West Orange County; a relief elementary school in the Lake Nona area; a relief middle school in Horizon West; and three targeted rezoning that could affect Chain of Lakes Middle, Southwest Middle, Sand Lake Elementary, Bay Meadows Elementary, Whispering Oak Elementary and Lake Whitney Elementary.
The first of these rezonings would affect 28 middle school students in the Sand Lake Hills subdivision, which currently is split between Southwest and Chain of Lakes middle schools. OCPS’ recommendation is to move students in the targeted area from Chain of Lakes Middle to Southwest Middle.
The second would affect 24 elementary school students residing in the area west of Turkey Lake Road and Interstate 4, in the area of Hillenmeyer Way and south to the intersection of Central Florida and Palm parkways. OCPS’s recommendation is to move students in the targeted area from Bay Meadows Elementary to Sand Lake Elementary.
The final would affect 123 elementary school students residing in the Windermere Pointe and Emerald Ridge neighborhoods. OCPS’ recommendation is to move students in the targeted area from Whispering Oak Elementary to Lake Whitney Elementary.
Site 80-H-SW-4, which will relieve Dr. Phillips and Freedom high schools, comes with two rezoning options. The first would have projected student enrollment numbers upon opening in fall 2021 at 1,792 for the relief school, 3,529 for Dr. Phillips and 2,966 for Freedom. Dr. Phillips High’s enrollment numbers include magnet students.
The second option for Site 80-H-SW-4 has projected student enrollment numbers upon opening in fall 2021 at 2,334 for the relief school, 3,420 for Dr. Phillips and 2,533 for Freedom. As is OCPS protocol, relief high schools open with no senior class.
The rezoning processes for Site 113-H-W-4 off Seidel Road — which relieves Windermere High School — and Bridgewater Middle relief school Site 65-M-W-4 are a bit more complicated.
There are four rezoning options for the relief high school, and two options involve some changes to West Orange High’s zone.
Additionally, OCPS proposed a rezoning involving Bridgewater Middle and Site 65-M-W-4 that would have some of the middle school students temporarily housed in a separate wing of the relief high school.
“Those folks who live on the far west side know that we have this middle school called Bridgewater Middle that’s a tad overcrowded,” McGowin said. “So, we opened up a new relief school this year for them, and they're still a very large middle school. We have an opportunity to provide some relief for Bridgewater until we get all the middle schools built.”
The relief middle school — which is scheduled for a 2023 opening — is close to the relief high school, and Bridgewater Middle still is overcrowded. For those reasons, OCPS is offering to offset some of the overcrowding at Bridgewater by taking students who would be zoned for Site 65-M-W-4 and moving them to the relief high school. This would only last until Site 65-M-W-4 opens.
Should the community oppose and OCPS decide against this, there still are three rezoning options involving Site 65-M-W-4 and Bridgewater Middle.
Each rezoning will be considered during a School Board Rule Development Workshop April 7. They will then head to the School Board meeting and public hearing on May 12.