Orange County commission votes against Avalon Park relief school

New facility would provide relief to Avalon Park Middle School

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter, Kristin Giannas

AVALON PARK, Fla. - The Orange County Commission denied the Orange County Public School's plan for a relief school for Avalon Park Middle School on Tuesday after months of a heated debate.

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The proposed new school would be built on a vacant plot of land currently owned by the school board. The property sits on Timber Park Lane near Timber Springs Boulevard, not far from Avalon Park Boulevard.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said trying to put a middle school on an elementary school site is poor planning, but OCPS said it has been planning all along for the relief school.

"A middle school site should have been identified 5 or 10 years ago," said Mayor Jacobs. "Had that been done the surrounding neighbors would not be looking at a 12, 15 foot wall, 20,000 fill trucks and possible flooding."

"We are all in this situation because of the lack of necessary planning," said Mayor Jacobs. "And for the life of me I don't know how we can do anything more than we have done at this point."

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said OCPS has been planning all along for the relief school but projections aren't always accurate.

"I certainly don't want anyone to think planning wasn't going on," said Dr. Jenkins. "You can't always project what the growth and enrollment will be."

Dr. Jenkins said OCPS will now look at rezoning students - shifting them from school to school to even out population.

"What we're doing is rezoning, that's our interim solution.," said Dr. Jenkins. "Then we'll continue to look at possibilities for a relief school, on that site or elsewhere."

Avalon Park Middle School has a capacity of 970 students, but has more than 1,800 students enrolled.

If approved, the new school would be completed in October 2016 and would accommodate about 1,200 students.

On Monday, Beat Kahli, a wealthy developer, told Local 6 that he would build a relief school for Timber Creek High School at the corner of Avalon Lake Drive and Avalon Park East Boulevard.

Right now, Timber Creek is about 1,500 students over capacity.

Kahli says he signed a deal with the top charter school operator in the country, Academica, to build the 6-12 grade school, which could also open in 2016.

Kahli has also promised to build a K-8 charter school across from Avalon Park Middle school on land he controls. He said students who live in Avalon Park would have priority when applying.

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