Parents say new Orange County schools aren't coming fast enough to ease overcrowding

Elementary school students sharing desks, having class in the library

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Inside Keene's Crossing Elementary School, students are sharing classrooms and in some cases, even desks, parents said, after the first week of school.

Some students are having class in the library, due to the limited classroom space, and parents are demanding answers as to why Orange County Public Schools weren't prepared for the start of the school year.

"When I went to school yesterday to meet him for lunch and drop off school supplies, I saw, with my own eyes, the absurdity and just, I was shocked at the situation," said parent Lisa Keller, whose son is in first grade.

She took pictures showing her son sharing a desk with another boy and attached the pictures to a five-page letter she sent to each Orange County school board member.

"I have not heard back from them, so that's why I contacted the media," Keller said. "He's going into classroom that looks more like a supply room closet with 32 other kids, that's so overcrowded that he doesn't even have his own desk."

Orange County Public Schools spokesperson Lauren Roth said they are aware of the overcrowding issue.

Roth sent News 6 numbers showing the current enrollment at Keene's Crossing Elementary is at 1,371, when the school was built to hold 812 students. Which is why the school installed portables that weren't ready until Tuesday, more than a week after school started.

"The portables at Keene’s Crossing were completed today. The school will be moving furniture in today and students and teachers will begin moving into the portables tomorrow. They should be all moved in by Thursday or Friday at the latest," Roth said in an email. 

However, parents said portables are not enough. 

"We don't want Band-Aids like portables opening up on the lawn," Keller added. "We want long-term results and long-term action because our kids deserve better than this."

School officials said long-term solutions are in progress, with plans to build two new schools in the Horizon West area. One will open up next school year, the other is slated for August of 2020 to begin accepting students.

Students sharing desks at Keene's Cross Elementary School (Photo: Lisa Keller)
Students sharing desks at Keene's Cross Elementary School (Photo: Lisa Keller)

"OCPS has been very proactive about addressing overcrowding. Keene’s Crossing will be relieved twice in the next two years," Roth added. "The district as a whole is up nearly 5,000 students over last year at the same time."

The new schools have yet to be named, but school officials said the one expected to open up next year, should provide significant relief on the number of students at Keene's Crossing Elementary. 

"The school is projected to drop to approximately 960 students next year after Site 49 opens. The student count is expected to drop again when Site 85 opens, but that school’s zone has not been determined yet. That process will begin in Spring 2018," Roth added. 

OCPS will be hosting a town hall for parents to discuss planning on school construction on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 3 to 5 p.m. at the RBELC boardroom located at 445 West Amelia Street, Orlando, Florida 32801. 

They can also watch a livestream of the town hall here.

Parents who have questions before the meeting can submit questions in advance to Marilin.GutierrezCastellanos@ocps.net.

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