The Nap Ford Community School limped to victory Nov. 14 when the Orange County School Board voted 4-2 to approve the first city-sponsored charter school. But controversy still surrounds the project, which city leaders see as a step toward revitalizing the Parramore neighborhood.
Several school board members were angry that school administrators failed to ensure that the city-owned John J. Jackson Recreation Center, where the school will operate during its first year, will be a secure building -- free from other events that would mix school children with adults and teenagers. (The school's contract with the city gives the school "exclusive use" of certain areas such as tennis and basketball courts, five classrooms and a set of bathrooms.)
School board members also were concerned that no one from Parramore showed up to endorse the school. "Knowing all the opposition to this school, you could have drug one person here who can say, ‘Put my kid there,'" said board member Linda Sutherland, who voted against the school.
Indeed, the school's opponents are refusing to let up. At a subsequent Nov. 20 Orlando City Council meeting, several Parramore residents produced a contract between the city and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which kicked in money to build recreation facilities at the center. That contract, dated Sept. 8, 1994, requires the city to maintain the Jackson Center as a public outdoor recreation facility for 25 years, until 2019.
A spokesman for the state agency said the department is concerned that school control of the basketball and tennis courts violates the terms of the agreement. State officals have scheduled a conference call with city officials on Nov. 27 to discuss the matter.
Meantime, opponents are researching whether the charter-school agreement violates any other contracts related to the Jackson Center.