Fern Creek Elementary School is AWESOME! Fern Creek Elementary School is about to be closed
Perhaps you’ve heard rumblings about the imminent closure of beloved local elementary school Fern Creek Elementary recently. We have, too! Which is weird, because it was only recently that we found ourselves at a “listening tour” there shaking hands with Gov. Rick Scott (because, you know, poor kids); also, it wasn’t too long ago that the New York Times profiled the school and its admirable handling of a largely impoverished student population. FERN CREEK IS AN AMAZING PUBLIC SCHOOL!
So, tonight it was confirmed by Orange County Public Schools Area Superintendent Bill Gordon and board member Nancy Robbinson that the lauded school will be closed in either 2017 or 2019 – depending on the potential cashflow from a sales tax increase to grease the demolition wheels – in favor of finally killing the desegregation order and putting the rich white kids in Baldwin (er, Audubon) Park and the poor black kids in Parramore (er, “Downtown”) K-8 establishments that have yet to be built. Hilariously, Robbinson, at a meeting held tonight in Fern Creek’s auditorium, would only refer to the Parramore location as “downtown” for the entirety of what ended up being a pretty contentious meeting on a rainy Wednesday. “They just won’t say Parramore,” said someone next to us.
We’ll know more next week when OCPS holds a meeting at Audubon to discuss the glories of the K-8 premise (IT KEEPS KIDS IN THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS = SEPARATE BUT EQUAL), but it’s pretty alarming that there has been no discussion, no mention by the board, no Orlando Sentinel crowing, no picketing, no nothing about this matter, basically because OCPS didn’t want to talk about it publicly for the years it’s been planned. The board has budgeted $28.5 million to construct the new Audubon (BALDWIN!) location, which, as members of the audience pointed out, was almost swallowed by a sinkhole in 1975. The budget for the “Downtown” school remains unclear.
If Robbinson’s demeanor tonight was anything to go by, the school board is still into pretending the PR mess isn’t coming. “It’s 3 1/2 years away!” seemed to be the comfort call from Robbinson, who, she might add, is married to a former Fern Creek Bobcat (er, Bulldog – edit), so she totally knows the fight song. We’ll be following this story closely, so stay tuned – there are so many underlying issues here. But just know that Fern Creek Elementary, which just formed a partnership with Rollins College a few years ago and was just gifted an A/V room by the Blue Man Group, is soon to be history, and (ha ha ha), could possibly be taken over by a charter school thanks to Florida law, something even Gordon and Robbinson made “can’t be sure?” faces at.
We give up.