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Hillsborough school board to consider another new boundary change plan

A revised version of Superintendent Addison Davis’ previous proposal will face scrutiny — and a key vote — on Tuesday.
 
McLane Middle School in Brandon is one of six under-enrolled schools in Hillsborough County that would close and become repurposed under a proposal now before the Hillsborough County School Board.
McLane Middle School in Brandon is one of six under-enrolled schools in Hillsborough County that would close and become repurposed under a proposal now before the Hillsborough County School Board. [ Times (2015) ]
Published Feb. 24, 2023|Updated Feb. 24, 2023

Hillsborough County School Superintendent Addison Davis on Friday put the finishing touches on a new proposal to change attendance boundaries ahead of a key School Board vote on Tuesday.

Unlike a plan Davis released earlier this month, the new one would send 282 students from Bloomingdale High School to Brandon High. It would more than double the number moving from Newsome High to Bloomingdale. And it would cut in half the number moving from Farnell Middle in Westchase to Smith Middle in Citrus Park.

The plan continues to protect Plant High and Coleman Middle, two crowded schools in South Tampa, where parents and homeowners resisted earlier proposals that would send some children to Jefferson High and Pierce Middle.

A sign protesting proposed changes in the Hillsborough County school district's attendance boundaries is seen in front of a South Tampa home on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
A sign protesting proposed changes in the Hillsborough County school district's attendance boundaries is seen in front of a South Tampa home on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Like previous plans, the new one would turn Carrollwood Elementary into a K-8 school. It also would close Just, Kimbell and Cleveland elementary schools, along with Adams, McLane and Monroe middle schools.

Adams, which students are assigned to attend after Carrollwood Elementary, would eventually re-open as a pre-collegiate school that students could attend by choice.

Davis estimates these changes will save the district $13.5 million a year in operating costs by consolidating schools with large vacancy rates and decreasing school bus miles.

Using space more efficiently also improves the schools, Davis has argued, as under-enrolled schools do not have the funding they need for a full range of services and electives.

But the planning process has been arduous, and the seven-member school board has been slow to reach consensus.

At a workshop on Feb. 13, most board members either wanted a plan that saves more money or said the project was badly executed. Some said Davis’ plan was racially discriminatory, as the schools slated for closure serve large percentages of Black and Hispanic students.

Speaking at a community meeting on Jan. 7, 2023, were, from left: Smith Middle School civics teacher Kelvin Wright; State Rep. and former School Board member Susan Valdes; community organizer Robin Lockett; and Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez. Perez has stated her objections to a proposed boundary plan because it would close and repurpose several schools in high-minority communities.
Speaking at a community meeting on Jan. 7, 2023, were, from left: Smith Middle School civics teacher Kelvin Wright; State Rep. and former School Board member Susan Valdes; community organizer Robin Lockett; and Hillsborough County School Board member Karen Perez. Perez has stated her objections to a proposed boundary plan because it would close and repurpose several schools in high-minority communities. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]

Friday’s plan release followed a week of district-led community meetings. Principals were on hand from the schools that would receive new students. At one meeting on Wednesday, there were performances by musicians from Smith Middle, which is surrounded by privately run charter schools and largely empty as a result.

In South Tampa, parents brainstormed for ways to convince the board to adopt Davis’ plan and avoid another redistricting in the future that might not keep their children in Plant and Coleman.

Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy Hahn meets South Tampa families about proposed school boundary changes at a park on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023
Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy Hahn meets South Tampa families about proposed school boundary changes at a park on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023 [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the board room at 901 E Kennedy Drive in downtown Tampa. Unlike the Feb. 13 workshop, this is a business meeting where members of the public can can speak.

If Davis’ proposal gets at least four votes, there will be a second vote on March 9.

It’s not clear what will happen if the board votes it down. Davis and the board could agree to move ahead on some components of the plan — such as the Carrollwood K-8 school or the sale of Just Elementary, for example.

The project has played out in a stressful year for schools, which are coping with hundreds of teacher vacancies and a months-long bargaining impasse with the teachers’ union.

Administrators and board members also fear the financial impact of House Bill 1 in the Legislature, which — if passed — would offer tax-funded vouchers and education accounts to all school-age kids in the state, making it easier for families to leave public schools.