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Orange County Commission Votes Down Construction of Relief High School

November 6, 2013 | WMFE - The Orange County School Board could take legal action to get a new high school built near Windermere. The School Board owns the land, and officials say the new campus is needed to relieve overcrowding. But they'd need a zoning exception to go forward, and Tuesday night they were denied by Orange County commissioners in a 6-to-1 vote.

School Board Chairman Bill Sublette says there seems to be a double standard, because the county already allowed a private school to be built within the disputed zone. There is also a commercial strip mall in the zone.

Sublette says 1,800 people signed a petition supporting the new high school that was turned over to commissioners Tuesday, but some neighbors of the site spoke out against it.

“Why are they letting the needs of a small number of homeowners who are very vocal in their opposition to override the wishes of clearly the overwhelming number of West Orange residents who are screaming and clamoring, rightfully so, for relief for their overcrowded schools in west Orange?” Sublette asks.

But Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer, who voted against building the new campus, says it’s not that simple. He points to the differences between the nearby private school and the proposed public high school.

“That school is made up of, my understanding is, kindergarten through the 12th grade,” Brummer says, “which means that obviously the 1,250 students is not a 2,850-student high school that Orange County Public Schools was proposing.”

Brummer says high schools create more traffic, off-hour noise, and use more land than other types of schools, so it’s difficult to find the right place for them.

The closest existing public high school is about 500 students over capacity, with hundreds more expected in the next few years due to a housing construction boom in the area.

Sublette says the School Board is weighing legal action and exploring other sites for the relief high school.

 

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