Orlando allows Catholic school to close sidewalk for security, despite resident criticism

School can close sidewalk to pedestrians from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The city of Orlando voted Monday on what leaders call a compromise following St. James Cathedral School’s request to close off a sidewalk near their campus.

Understanding the issue goes back to 1996, when the city gifted the school on Ridgewood Street the roadway in front of their campus, but not the sidewalk. That area stretches from Hillman Avenue to Cathcart Avenue.

Then in 2023, school administrations say they became increasingly worried about the safety risks students face with crime in the downtown area.

Under the new agreement, the school will be able to have locked gates blocking the sidewalk for public use from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily when there are classes scheduled to occur.

“I was a police offer for 14 years here,” said Commissioner Tony Ortiz. “Working your streets, my streets around here and I saw plenty. I don’t know how many of you have picked up a child, a hurt child from the streets. I have. I’m not gonna put my neck on this one and see a catastrophe happening and coming back and say we could have avoided that.”

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The Lake Eola Heights Neighborhood Association submitted an appeal to the city-drafted compromise, which ultimately was rejected by commissioners.

“I was not pleased with the outcome. I thought the appeal made good sense and had good merit to it,” said association president David Martins. “I’m going to speak with the principal on a monthly basis and see some of the things we can hopefully work together on.”

Commissioner Patty Sheehan is the representative for the district the school is in. She felt the city was wrong not to take residents’ feelings into account.

“This ordinance, right after we had this hearing, assumes we are not going to listen to any of the concerns of the appeal and that we are just going to move forward. I think that again disenfranchised the neighborhood,” Sheehan said.

The school and the neighborhood association agreed to have monthly updates with each other.

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Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.