Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough families applying for school choice have to wait and see

TAMPA — Families interested in school choice in Hillsborough County, especially those with high school-aged children, should get comfortable with uncertainty this year.

School officials don't yet know how choice options will be affected by the overhaul of attendance boundaries for nine large high schools in the northwest and eastern county.

Though the boundaries may not be settled until February, the district kicked off the first period for choice applications last week, a window that closes at the end of the month. The next application period starts in mid April.

So what's a family to do?

Option one: Memorize the phone number and Web address for the district's choice program. Check back often.

Option two: Just go ahead and apply for choice at schools that could see classroom seats open up after boundaries changes — even those that are currently crowded and closed to choice.

"If there's any doubt, apply and we'll hold your application," said Bill Person, Hillsborough's general director of student placement.

He said the district will process at a later date the early applications along with those that come in after the boundaries are set. Hillsborough may even create a special choice application period this year, before the April window, specifically for high schools.

"It's a definite possibility," Person said. "Our intent is to provide services and placement, not to make everybody wait."

For now, thousands of families could be in a wait-and-see mode. Last year, the district received 5,500 applications just for school choice, not including applications to magnet programs offering specialized curriculum.

Families also can apply for choice hardship, previously called special assignment, to get into crowded schools closed to traditional choice. School officials have cracked down on these placements in recent years and say they expect families to demonstrate a real need.

But popular high schools long capped to choice could soon see some breathing room from the boundary changes. On Aug. 24, Steinbrenner High opens in Lutz, and Strawberry Crest High in the Dover area. To fill them, the district is reviewing boundaries at seven nearby schools.

These include Gaither, Alonso, Sickles and Freedom high schools in the northern county and Durant, Plant City and Armwood in the east. Some or all could have openings for choice in the future.

But only Freedom and Armwood are currently open for school choice, according to the district Web site, which does not identify the new schools as options.

Person said Steinbrenner and Strawberry Crest are likely to have some room for choice.

Plus, school officials have not yet decided whether to add yet another boundary change to the list — Chamberlain High in the north Tampa area. What happens at this severely crowded school could affect choice options elsewhere.

And the district also is opening two elementary schools in the Lithia and Dover areas. A new middle school also is slated to open in Lithia, triggering yet another set of boundary changes.

In another change to the choice program, the district will accept applications from kindergarten students to the popular International Baccalaureate programs at MacFarlane Park and Lincoln elementary schools. Other magnet programs are open to students in first through 11th grades.

Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Have a question about choice?

Visit the choice Web site, or call the information line at (813) 272-4692.

Hillsborough families applying for school choice have to wait and see 01/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 10:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.