By Sean Ashby
East Orange County, Fl – Although growth of East Orange County has slowed during the years of “The Great Recession”, Avalon Middle School located in Avalon Park has continued to see a rise in population as other schools in the area see declining populations. This past fall, the rise of student population led the Avalon Middle SAC to reach out to local school board member Daryl Flynn for help and possible solutions to the overcrowding. I recently asked Mrs. Flynn questions about the current and future population, results from a questionnaire sent out to parents, and why quick changes can be a difficult challenge.
Q. What is the current population at Avalon Middle School this year and what is the projected number for next year?
A. The current student enrollment released on February 15th is 1,628. Enrollment figures may be found on the OCPS website. The projected number for next year is 1,631. The OCPS demographer has taken into account current growth, the size of the current 8th grade moving on to high school and the size of the incoming 6th grade class. (Go to https://www.ocps.net/es/legislative/governmental/Pages/Demographics.aspx for more information on methodology used to arrive at enrollment and projections.)
Q. Looking ahead 3-7 years what changes are the Board considering to alleviate new growth in East Orange County, including new schools and zoning timelines.
A. As discussed at the recent SAC meeting, residential growth in East Orange County is still occurring albeit at a considerably slower rate when compared to its peak just a few years ago. In fact, several of our schools in the east have experienced declining enrollment due to the downturn in the housing market. The Avalon Middle School attendance zone is one of the few that is still experiencing some new growth.
Each year the OCPS five year capital budget plan is reviewed and the school construction list is revised as needed. A relief school in the Wedgefield development is currently within the five year capital budget. It is expected that this school could provide some relief to Avalon Middle when we look to rezone for the new school.
Also, while the school board does not have the authority to deny residential construction, there is a process in place that allows us to review new projects or changes to existing projects. If you go to https://www.ocps.net/es/legislative/governmental/Pages/SchoolConcurrency.aspx you can read about the Capacity Enhancement Agreement process and Concurrency.
Q. In regard to the petition response, what was the one thing you take away from the comments?
A. The survey results supported what we know about involved parents. They want to ensure their children are in the best learning environment possible. The responses followed a definite trend that called for a secure and safe campus, compliance with class size requirements and assurance that students continue to receive the same course and extracurricular offerings currently available.
Q. If the final decision is to keep everybody on the campus next year, what steps will OCPS take to ensure student safety while on campus?
A. I am giving this one to Dr. Vazquez and Mr. Wright as they are the individuals who will be working with Principal Frank for the extra security detail.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Vazquez is the East Learning Community Superintendent, and Mr. Wright is the Area Executive Director.)
Q. Anything else that you think current and/or future parents should know about the process?
A. The Superintendent and I are closely monitoring the enrollment at Avalon Middle School .
I also want the community to know anytime student attendance boundaries are changed a 13 step rezoning process must be followed.
Many considerations are involved when a rezoning takes place. These considerations include anticipated growth and development within the attendance zones, facility design capacities, distance and duration of student travel, school feeder patterns, free and reduced lunch counts, ELL students, and FCAT scores. We look to keep schools within a reasonable balance of each other.
I want to stress that when parents or community members have a question or concern they shouldn’t hesitate to call contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-317-3200, ext 2989.
Sean Ashby is an educator at Timber Creek High School and a graduate of Florida State University. He lives in Avalon Park with his wife and two daughters, who attend Avalon Middle School. When he is not spending time with is family, Sean enjoys the outdoors. You can reach him at email@example.com