Battle for new Orange County relief school likely headed to court



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The push to get county commissioners to support a new school in West Orange County got shot down again, so the fight between the county and school district, students and neighbors, appears to be headed for the courtroom.

Supporters of a new high school are urging commissioners to help ease overcrowding at West Orange High School by allowing a new school to be built for students in the fall of 2017.

Students showed up to the commissioners meeting Tuesday to show support for the new school. They insisted the school is overcrowded, and they need some relief.

Supporters of a new school needed one commissioner inside to reconsider their vote, but that didn't happen.

Many neighbors want the district to move past the plans to put the new school in their rural settlement, but that's not happening either, further dividing both sides.

"For the safety of my sisters and for the other kids out there, the overcrowding is getting too bad, and we need this school," said West Orange senior Kyle Griffitts.

Neighbors are concerned about the noise and traffic of the new school with some 3,000 students.

"If this high school is allowed as they proposed is a dangerous precedent for all 22 rural settlements," said June Cole, who opposes the school.

Last month, four out of seven commissioners refused to make an exception to allow the proposed 350,000-square-foot school to be built in the West Windermere rural settlement.

On Tuesday, commissioners considered voting again to send a compromise deal with the district back for discussion but decided to leave it in the hands of Orange County Public Schools.

"I hope there's an opportunity for us to move forward and avoid litigation," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

The school district insists it tried to work with the county, agreeing to remove plans for a high school stadium at the new site.

Now OCPS plans to leave the decision up to a three-judge panel to see if it can build on the land it owns.