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Eatonville preservation association sues Orange County Schools in battle over Hungerford School site

Students at the Hungerford School.
The Association To Preserve The Eatonville Community
Students at the Hungerford School.

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community has sued Orange County Public Schools over the district’s plans to sell the site of the former Hungerford School.

In 1951, the then 300-acre plot was acquired by the school board with an important restriction: that the land could only be used as a public school for Black children.

But in 2022, that restriction was released, giving OCPS the go-ahead to sell the land to a private developer to turn into mixed-income housing.

Now the lawsuit seeks to clarify whether the original restriction still holds and if the school board failed to comply with state law.

In a statement, director of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community N.Y. Nathiri said, “If this sale is allowed to proceed, the rich culture and heritage of the town that Zora Neale Hurston popularized around the world as 'the first incorporated African American community in the United States' will be erased."

Last month, the Eatonville Town Council voted against approving zoning changes to the site that would have automatically allowed OCPS’ sale of the land to go through.

When reached for a statement, an OCPS spokesman said the district doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Read more about the history of the Hungerford School and the lawsuit here.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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