Orange County residents fear new school site ill fit

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County residents are expected to pack a meeting and fight to keep a school from being built in their neighborhood.

If approved, that new high school would go up at State Road 535 and Ficquette Road in Ocoee.

School officials said they have no other choice if they want to avoid overcrowding.

They say they need to build now to deal with serious overcrowding at West Orange High School, and the plot of land's already bought and ready to go.

The folks who will be speaking Wednesday night said that's not good enough.

The quiet stretch of land is generating plenty of noise. Orange County Schools hope to open a brand-new high school for the 2017-18 school year.

Families living near the site say it is a rural settlement land, and a lousy choice for a high school.

"From a safety standpoint, for our children. It's six lanes right there, if you count the turning lanes. Do we want our students walking across a six-lane road?" resident June Cole said.

Supporters said the school is desperately needed to relieve overcrowding at West Orange High, designed for a capacity of just under 3,000 students, with nearly 3,500 enrolled and nearly 5,000 anticipated within 10 years.

School board member Pam Gould said building is essential at a public meeting in May.

"There is nothing that would be ready, shovel-ready so to speak, within the same time frame," Gould said.

Critics said the $7 million property was a bad buy, and building would only make things worse.

"Just because they own this property already is no reason to put the high school there just because they already own it," said one resident.

Some of the folks who will speak out tonight said they don't believe the school board's really interested in their concerns.

They fear the school's a done deal.