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Charter schools could serve 4,400 more in Hillsborough

By Marlene Sokol
Miami entertainer Pitbull is a high-profile promoter of Academica's SLAM charter schools.

Charter school operators are continuing their march on Hillsborough County with four new applications that seek to serve 4,400 more students at build-out.

The largest would be a SLAM middle and high school in south Hillsborough, complementing a group run by Miami-based Academica that includes a SLAM middle school in Citrus Park. The schools, promoted by Miami rapper Pitbull, offer sports-themed curriculum with an emphasis on STEM. By its fifth year, the school would hope to enroll 2,000 students in grades 6-12.

And that's not all.

The SLAM group wants to open a K-5 school, also in the Riverview area, that would eventually serve 750 students.

These applications are on the agenda for Tuesday's School Board meeting.

Also up for approval is the Patel Institute for Innovation, which would serve 600 high school students in the Temple Terrace area with a technology theme; and Navigator Academy of Leadership, a K-8 school in southern Hillsborough. Navigator would focus on science, math, art, reading and technology. Its target 5-year enrollment is 1,054.

Nine schools applied for consideration in this cycle. Typically, even when schools are approved by the board, as many as half struggle to secure locations.

At last count, Hillsborough had more than 21,173 charter school students, accounting for about one in 10 students. That's up from 17,883 last year for an increase of 18 percent.