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  1. Hernando

Hernando County School Board wants a new technical school — and $30 million to build it

The request tops the board's 2019 legislative platform after a unanimous vote Tuesday.
Published Jan. 23

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board will add a big ask to its list of requests for the state Legislature: $30 million to build a new brick-and-mortar building for career and technical education.

The board's previous legislative platform, approved in December, asked for only one appropriation — $2.3 million to replace decade-old student computers — plus policy changes for fuller transportation funding and reduced barriers to teacher recruitment. But on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to add the request for new building funds, plus $1 million to make schools more secure.

Sophia Watson, the district's supervisor of adult and technical programs, has updated the board on the vocational school proposal in recent School Board workshops. Watson, superintendent John Stratton and board member Jimmy Lodato also have met with state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, about the proposed school.

Board members have largely agreed that restructuring the district's technical education will improve it, through both a dedicated building and revised academic requirements, which the board has discussed at informal meetings.

A new building likely would house the Suncoast Technical Education Center, as well as high school technical classes now held at other schools.

"It provides every high school student the opportunity to dual-enroll, and it frees up space at our existing high schools," Watson said in a Jan. 8 workshop. "With our community growing, it'll buy some time before you have to build new schools."

Simpson, who is expected to take over as senate president in 2020, has vocally supported expanding the region's vocational education.

"Right now, we are piecemealing our technical education system," he said in an interview earlier this month. "If we can build a facility like this that is a quality vocational education technical center ... that's something we are taking very seriously."

School district spokesperson Karen Jordan, who presented the revised platform to the board, said the security funds would go toward "hardening" measures such as locks, gates and cameras.

"We are keenly aware that it is still pending certain funds from the state to help us mitigate some of the expenses resulting from school hardening," she said. "We know that won't even come close."

Contact Jack Evans at jevans@tampabay.com or . Follow @JackHEvans.

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