Hours after an emotional decision to close Just Elementary School this summer, the Hillsborough County School Board moved ahead on a plan to change hundreds of school attendance boundaries and close five more schools in 2024.
A second and final vote will be scheduled in June.
The plan, which has been discussed and debated for much of the last year, is expected to save the district about $13 million annually in operating costs.
It is also intended to ease crowding and fill more seats at underenrolled schools, making it easier to allocate resources evenly across the district.
Five schools would close, with one — Adams Middle — expected to reopen later in a new format. The district would find new uses for the buildings that now house Cleveland and Kimbell elementary schools, and Monroe and McLane middle schools.
School board members Jessica Vaughn, Karen Perez and Henry “Shake” Washington cast dissenting votes, as they did in the decision to close Just Elementary.
Vaughn said she voted no because she did not think there was enough public input on the boundary change project, and because the district stands to lose money as families who disapprove of the changes leave the system.
“This is not the solution,” Vaughn said. “This is just not what I envisioned and what I think is the direction the district needs to go in to be successful.”
Washington said the changes would be too disruptive in his electoral district, which has the greatest share of underenrolled schools.
“I’m not going to support this because I don’t see moving 4,200 students,” he said. “I just can’t support it.”
Board members Patti Rendon and Stacy Hahn said relief is needed for crowded schools in south and east Hillsborough.
“We have to do something fiscally right,” argued Nadia Combs, the board’s chairperson, who has supported the project since the beginning. “I support this, but I do not think it’s enough. We’re going to be back in here within two or three years.”