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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Lacking construction dollars, Hillsborough officials consider long-term options



Lacking new state construction dollars for anything but charter schools, it's not easy to put together a five-year plan for a school district the size of Hillsborough.

This much is certain: Work will begin on an elementary and middle school (total cost: $14.3 million),  and renovations will happen at Boyette Springs, Cannella and Bing elementary schools ($18.5-million for the three). Impact fees fund the new construction, and careful accounting freed up money for the renovations.

Long-term? That's a lot less clear.

At a workshop Tuesday, some School Board members wondered what will happen if population grows in downtown Tampa, as a result of city redevelopment efforts; or in southeast Hillsborough as construction that halted in the recession continues to rebound.

Candy Olson, who represents south Tampa, asked about the strain on the Rampello Downtown Partnership School. Ideally, she said, that school should be used when the parents work downtown but live outside the downtown area, and want to be able to attend school meetings and events. Officials are researching where those students live.

There's also the possibility that some schools on valuable land in west Tampa and along the Hillsborough River - Dunbar Elementary, Just Elementary and Stewart Middle, but clearly not Blake High School - could be asked to relocate.

Board member Stacy White, meanwhile, asked if the district would consider adding a fifth International Baccalaureate high school program in southeast Hillsborough. He was told that's unlikely - at least not right away - because of the costs.

District officials continue to be somewhat skeptical about state projections concerning charter and virtual schools. "The state likes to think we're going to have a lot of kids going to charter and virtual," said chief facilities officer Cathy Valdes.

The official projection: Charter school popuation districtwide will increase from 11,894 in 2012-2013 to 19,410 in 2017-2018.

The long-term wish list for new school construction includes three elementary schools and two middle schools in the south county; and a middle school in Central Tampa.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 2:53pm]


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