Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Education

Hillsborough plans two new schools, three school renovations

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's school district will build an elementary and middle school in the southeastern part of the county and is renovating three elementaries this year.

Beyond those projects, the prospect for additional ones is unclear as the state continues to direct its capital education dollars to charter schools.

Hillsborough educators are skeptical about the state's projection of charter school growth.

"The state likes to think we're going to have a lot of kids going to charter and virtual," chief facilities officer Cathy Valdes told the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday.

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

Population in traditional schools is expected to decrease for several years, according to a five-year plan that the district is required to update every year.

"The state is projecting that we're going to lose about 1,000 students a year into the fifth year of the plan," Valdes said. "And then they show us starting to gain again, because you know we are going to have growth in Hillsborough County."

This year's plan calls for renovations at Cannella, Bing and Boyette Springs elementary schools for a total of $18.5 million.

Looking to the future, board members wondered if the district might be caught off-guard — especially if school population does not conform to the state's expectations.

City of Tampa redevelopment efforts could put a strain on the Rampello Downtown Partnership School, they said.

Similarly, as the construction sector continues to rebound, south Hillsborough could find itself with school crowding.

Anticipating such trends, the district has planned most of its new construction in the southern part of the county.

Board member Stacy White of Valrico said he's interested in more than just construction. His constituents have asked if the district might open a fifth International Baccalaureate high school program in his district.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said that is not likely to happen any time soon because of the costs, but her staff will track the population in the four existing IB schools to see if the demand exists.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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