Dr. Vazquez talks about new facilities projects past, present and future
Posted on 05/08/2023
Mondays with Maria Banner



Nancy Alvarez: Hi everyone, I'm Nancy Alvarez, back with our Superintendent for another Monday's with Maria.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hi everyone. I'm Maria Vazquez. More than likely you have seen a school under construction in your area or received a mailer about a community meeting for an upcoming project. That's because nearly every corner of our vast school district has been touched by a facilities capital project.

Nancy Alvarez: So much growth. So how many of our 210 schools are we talking about here?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: OCPS has opened 64 new schools and renovated or replaced 132 in the past 20 years, and it's important to mention that this is all possible because of our taxpayers. They have approved and renewed the half penny sales tax and they continue to support it. We are so appreciative for that.

Nancy Alvarez: So let's recap for just a moment here. OCPS has one of the largest and most successful school construction programs really in the whole country. This year you opened five new schools, three new elementary schools, one middle, and one K through eight. That additional capacity was needed to accommodate growing student enrollment. The schools represent a 156 million dollar investment in students by the community. So the big question now, what's next?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: The need for new schools is not slowing down. We have a middle school campus opening this fall for Water Spring Middle School, and we have three schools opening in 2024, an elementary school, a middle school, and our 23rd high school. We are also renovating five schools and a technical college and we are adding classroom buildings at seven more. I'm always impressed by the vast scope of our construction program and the stellar facilities team that brings these amazing schools to life for our communities. And that's not even counting the smaller projects, upgrading crucial needs like roofing, air conditioning and lighting at 100 other campuses.

Nancy Alvarez: It's so much, I'm just tired even just thinking about it.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: And we just broke ground on a new Orange Technical College West campus that will be near Ocoee High School. It's dedicated to high skill in demand careers, focusing on building construction trades, hvac, electricity, cosmetology, and there are more programs. The campus will also help students in becoming an apprentice earning their GED, learning English and expanding industry based skills.

Nancy Alvarez: You know, if we keep up with this TV career of ours, we need to check out that cosmetology department.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: I agree. I agree

Nancy Alvarez: We should go together one of these days. Okay, so what about the east side?

Dr. Maria Vazquez: We will be breaking ground on a new O T C E campus soon.

Nancy Alvarez: All right. And that is just so incredible the growth. What is the biggest challenge OCPS faces right now when it comes to the construction of schools? I’ve got to imagine cost is an issue.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yes, cost is definitely an issue, but there are several number of challenges. One of them really being finding land. It's tough to find the number of acres we need in Orange County. Remember, the property also has to be connected to infrastructure and located in the area where the growth is happening. Another challenge, as you mentioned, is funding. Construction costs are going up every year. As I mentioned, we're blessed to have the support of Orange County residents through the half penny sales tax, but even the funding we get is a limited pot of dollars and we have to plan and spend carefully.

Nancy Alvarez: So tell me more about this sales tax. It's so important that people understand you know where it's going.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yes, absolutely. Voters approved a half penny sales tax in 2002 to build and replace 136 schools. Then in 2014, voters approved an extension that also included funds for smaller projects and upgrading school technology. In 2024, the tax may come up again for continuation. The school board is going to be taking a close look at our future facility needs in the next coming months,

Nancy Alvarez: And we'll of course continue to keep families posted through conversations like this as we continue this massive growth around here.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Absolutely. Thank you so much for watching. Please visit to learn more. I'll be back with another Mondays with Maria next week.