Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and charter schools will have new standards to follow as of May 1 for selecting local real estate to develop, with a notable decrease in acreage requirements, after county commissioners gave final approval on Tuesday to updating a 21-year-old ordinance.
The school siting ordinance was first adopted by Orange County in 1996, with regulations limited to public schools.
This updated ordinance sets new requirements that reduce the acreage required for a new school site, but also now requires traffic studies to be conducted, and requires landscaping that is already part of OCPS design guidelines.
Acreage standards for undeveloped real estate will now be: elementary schools 7 to 11 acres (previously 15), middle/K8 schools 12 to 16 acres (previously 25), and high schools 40 to 50 acres (previously 65).
Beginning May 1, any sites that OCPS or a charter developer are negotiating or planning for will fall under the new rules. Because the acreage mandates are reduced, it should not disrupt real estate negotiations.
As Orange County continues to urbanize, these new requirements will prompt more vertical schools in the future. OCPS is already planning this for a 50-acre site on Daryl Carter Parkway that it bought in December, with plans for its first six-story high school by 2022.
New high schools will be prohibited in rural settlements, and charter schools will be covered by all the new requirements. OCPS will now have to provide connectivity to existing pedestrian access from residential neighborhoods, where possible.
The ordinance will be jointly reviewed by OCPS and the county every five years.