The Orange County School Board and the Orange County Commission have been arguing over a proposed school site since last summer. Tuesday night, they tried to reach a last-ditch compromise, before formal mediation and then a possible lawsuit.
The question is where to build a new high school to ease overcrowding at West Orange High School in Winter Garden. Some support a site at County Road 535 and Ficquette Road, near Windermere, while other say that site would hurt their quality of life.
Julie Sadlier says, "I support the site. I think it's important to have a community school, one where the students can ride their bikes and easily get to."
June Cole says, "It's going to be a traffic nightmare. It's not the right location. I believe their numbers are over inflated on the cost of the other two possible school sites. I would like to see the other sites fully vetted."
County commissioners rejected a zoning change for the CR 535 site back in November. It's a piece of land the school board has already spent eight million dollars to buy and improve. Here's Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.
"It is a piece of property that we already own, and it's ready to be built on. We think we meet the requirements to do just that," says Jenkins.
County commissioners say the school board should not have purchased that land ten years ago, before they had zoning to build on it. Both boards insist they want to resolve their differences to serve families and to save tax dollars.
Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd represents the part of the county at the center of the debate. He says, "To be productive, we need to have direction, and that's what I'm hoping for. But I think there's an airing out of things that needs to take place."
At the end of the five-hour joint meeting that was held in the West Orange High School auditorium, the school board and the county commission decided they will each pick a team to go back and take another look at two of three potential sites.
They will look at the school board's original site, the one the district might sue over. They will also check out a second site called the north of Alberts site. It is a 26-acre site that was set aside for a future middle school. The school district already owns this piece of land.
The two teams are expected to scout the sites soon.