United for a Middle School activist and East Orlando Resident Angela Browning submitted this op-ed in response to an article that appeared on our site discussing school overcrowding in East Orlanod.
By Angela Browning
In response to Brian Yogodzinski’s article championing Avalon Park Group’s proposal to build a charter school in Avalon Park, the proposed charter school coming to Avalon Park is far from a solution to the problem.
Setting aside concerns about the academic performance of Renaissance Charter schools, the charter still will not have the capacity to make more than a dent in the overcrowding situation at Avalon Middle. Proposed to have 1,150 student stations for grades K-8, that leaves only 383 middle school student stations, and students from all over Orange County will attend this school.
All of Mr. Yogodzinski’s listed egress factors remain an issue if an elementary school is built on the site in Timber Springs as opposed to a middle school, and the site has been zoned for an elementary school since it was acquired in 1998, well before many of us were even here.
But there are already five elementary schools in our area – and even if another was proposed (and it is not), the Timber Springs site is not in the target area of where the kids live who would attend that school. A relief middle school located on Innovation Way is not centrally-located in the target area.
The Timber Springs site is right in the middle of that target area. And, the Timber Springs site gives children on the North end of Avalon Park Boulevard the opportunity to walk or bike to a middle school in their neighborhood, which is desirable.
There is no better spot for this relief middle school than the site in Timber Springs. In fact, it is just what Orange County and Orange County Public Schools had in mind when those two entities entered into four joint documents governing school planning.
A middle school on the Timber Springs site: would support the goal of making schools a cornerstone of community planning and design; would achieve the objective of placing schools and facilities within planned neighborhoods, so that the school serves as a focal point for the community; would seek to enhance the community and neighborhood design through the joint use of its educational facilities as well as the county park, so it can become a place for community-based meetings and recreational activities, with the school site in a logical location for those activities; and would serve as a pillar of innovative design standards given its new space-saving design.
The Timber Springs site is 16.7 acres. The most recent plans include a two-story middle school, more than adequate single and double stacking for cars, a full-sized track, and a full-sized ball field. Full-sized tennis courts and a proper memorial for Corporal Deans are proposed to be built on the adjacent 5-acre county park land, which is currently nothing more than an open field with some immature trees and a fence around the perimeter.
OCPS has requested a joint-use agreement with the county for the use of this property, has offered to maintain it, and the county park land will be open to the public for use during non-school hours. We have an opportunity to build a brand new, state-of-the-art middle school in our area. This middle school will be far from substandard.
Rather, it will be the shiniest jewel in our area, a place that we will be proud to send our children. A school that will only increase our property values. Our children need and deserve a top-notch education passed on to them by top-notch teachers in a top-notch school in their own top-notch community.
Schools are an essential part of the fabric of our community. We have a desperate need for a middle school, and the proposed site in Timber Springs is the best place for it.
The ‘United for a Middle School’ organization is comprised of residents of Timber Springs and surrounding communities who support the Timber Springs location and whose children are either zoned for or currently attending Avalon Middle School. The group’s Facebook page has provided timely information and answers to questions from community members about the proposed location and news on the project for months. Avalon Middle School, with 1,807 students, is overcrowded by nearly twice its capacity, making it Orange County’s most populous middle school. The Orange County Commissioners and Mayor Teresa Jacobs are considering a land use waiver needed for a middle school to be built on Orange County Public Schools-owned land in the Timber Springs subdivision just north of Avalon Park. The rescheduled County Commission vote is May 19 at 2pm.