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County prepares to debut 9 new schools

Nine new schools _ the most in recent history for Hillsborough County _ will open in August.

And two renovated schools are scheduled to open Aug. 7, the first day of school.

"I've been around a long time, and it's the most I can ever remember," said superintendent Earl Lennard.

The new schools include two high schools, a career center and two campuses that will share two schools each.

Most of the new schools, which cost a total of $174-million, were built to relieve crowded conditions.

The school district has been growing by about 4,000 students a year for five years. Last year, student enrollment increased by 5,600.

Based on current projections, the new schools should reduce the number of schools over capacity from one-third of all campuses to less than 10 percent.

Officials estimate 14 schools will be at or above 120 percent of capacity this year. That compares to 52 schools in 1997.

"We've made a real dent in the number of critically overcrowded schools," said Bill Person, Hillsborough's director of pupil assignment. "We're building our way out."

The new schools are Bryant Elementary in Westchase, Cimino Elementary in Valrico, Ippolito Elementary in Riverview, Farnell Middle in western Hillsborough, Liberty Middle in New Tampa, Martinez Middle in Lutz, Freedom High in New Tampa, Middleton High in East Tampa, and the South County Career Center in Ruskin. The two renovated schools are Burney Elementary in Plant City and the D. W. Waters Career Center in Tampa.

This is not the end of the school construction boom. The district plans to build 21 schools in the next four years.