ORLANDO, Fla. - Families in Parramore are closer to getting their own neighborhood school after decades of busing that began as an effort to end segregation. But the new school will lead to zoning changes that are expected to affect surrounding schools, like Fern Creek Elementary.
Orlando leaders recently took the first step toward partnering with Orange County schools by buying a piece of land from the community redevelopment agency.
Busing students from Parramore to Fern Creek Elementary School has created a unique and diverse environment at the school.
"When they get to school they don't know where everyone lives, but they know that they're friends," parent Alisha Kerns said.
The school has earned national accolades for its success with a large population of homeless students. But all of that could soon come to an end once a new school in Parramore takes away half of Fern Creek's student population.
"We've done so much at that school to help kids. And the first thing the superintendent tells me is, 'You're on the chopping block because the people from the surrounding neighborhoods, Baldwin Park, will not send their kids there because of the kids that have been going there,' and I just think that's awful," Commissioner Patty Sheehan said.
Students at Fern Creek Elementary will be rezoned to the new school at the old Audubon Park site. It's something that some Fern Creek parents said they don't want.
"The small school atmosphere has been phenomenal for my kids. They're in classes with 15 to 20 students, they have one on one time with their teachers. The principal knows everyone's name," Kerns said.
Sheehan believes there should be a way to keep Fern Creek Elementary open.
"Stuart has 27 portables at Audubon and I have empty slots at Fern Creek, what sense does that make?" Sheehan asked.
The Orange County School Board will likely vote on the closure of Fern Creek and Grend Avenue elementary schools this fall.
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