Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

More students are in Hillsborough schools, but many are in charters

TAMPA — It was a Twitter-worthy milestone when enrollment passed 200,000 in the Hillsborough County Public Schools.

"We're seeing more families choosing to attend our schools," Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said, touring campuses on the first day of school.

But the growth, attributed largely to a rebounding economy and housing sector, was not entirely even. And it was most pronounced among independently operated charter schools.

For the second year in a row, growth in Hillsborough's charter school sector was nearly 20 percent, with a net gain of 2,186 students.

Districtwide, the growth rate was 1.2 percent, with 2,313 new students.

While the state will not receive official counts until October, Hillsborough is generally considered the eighth largest district in the nation and the third largest in the state, after Miami-Dade and Broward.

Within Hillsborough, there were some sharp differences between schools, sometimes reflecting new initiatives, and less dramatic differences between geographic areas.

Area 4, which includes central Tampa and extends through Forest Hills and Carrollwood, gained 431 students for the greatest percentage increase at 2.3 percent. This happened despite a loss of 100 students at Adams Middle School.

Plant City High School gained 94 students while Burnett Middle School lost 100 and McLane Middle School lost 80, according to the numbers released earlier this month.

Rodgers Middle School, which experienced a student death in late 2012 and extensive publicity afterward, lost 168 students. East Bay High School gained 156.

There also was growth at two high schools that are now offering college dual enrollment programs: Lennard High School gained 135 students while Leto gained 107.

In Area 1, which serves central and south Tampa, Just Elementary School gained 109 students while there were losses at Blake High School and Jefferson High School of 80 and 75.

The growth in charter schools reflects both the increased number of schools and the popularity of some programs.

Winthrop Charter School in the Bloomingdale area now has 1,240 students, up from 1,041. And Henderson Hammock in Citrus Park has 861, up from 657.

Lowry Elementary, a district-run school south of Westchase, lost 152 students.

"We had a new charter school open nearby," said Lowry principal Michelle Spagnuolo.

It's called Hillsborough Academy of Math and Science, it's less than two miles away and it has 645 students in grades kindergarten through eight.

Other than the lower numbers, Spagnuolo said, "it has been a normal year. Everything has been great."

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

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