Seeking to ease the transition from elementary to middle school and stem the loss of pre-teens to charter schools, the Hillsborough County School District plans to convert three more elementary schools to the K-8th grade format.
The three elementary schools affected are Lutz, Maniscalco and Pizzo, all in northern Hillsborough. Lutz, in particular, has lost many students to the popular Lutz Preparatory charter school.
The plan is to add one middle school grade each year, beginning in Aug. 2018 with the sixth grade. Students will have a choice of remaining in the K-8 school – assuming there is enough room for them – or attending the middle school where they would normally be assigned.
"Enough empty elementary seats exist at each site to fully implement this plan," says an information item attached to the Feb. 6 School Board meeting agenda.
"This model is in response to student need and is an attempt to recapture/retain students leaving for other school options. It will also allow more students to be provided middle school options in their local community."
The document says there are no capital costs involved and, for at least the first two years, there will be no need to hire additional assistant principals or guidance counselors.
"Sports options will be fully considered in year 3 when all middle school grades are populated," the document said. The district might consider combined teams for Lutz and Maniscalco.
Questions also remain about the bell schedule and transportation.
Hillsborough now operates K-8 schools at these locations: Roland Park, Rampello, Turner-Bartels, Tinker and Sulphur Springs, which is partly converted. Cahoon Elementary and Van Buren Middle are in the process of merging; that new school will be named for historian Carter G. Woodson.
Here are some of statistics that could be behind the move to K-8, according to "stay rate" reports that the district provided earlier this school year:
Between 57 and 59 percent of the children whose addresses would place them in Lutz and Maniscalco stay in those schools instead of choosing a magnet or charter program. At Pizzo, it's 70 percent.
But Greco Middle, the destination for those students in the Pizzo district, keeps only 49 percent of its assigned students. Lutz and Maniscalco feed to Liberty Middle School, which keeps 68 percent of the students in its geographic area.