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At a Hillsborough workshop, questions raised over latest proposal to create new school boundaries

Man in gray suit sitting at a desk behind a mic speaking.
Hillsborough County School Board
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YouTube
Addison Davis speaks at Hillsborough County School Board's workshop on February 13th, 2023.

Hillsborough County School Board members heard a fourth proposal that was touted late last week by Superintendent Addison Davis.

Hillsborough school board members met once again Monday to discuss new school boundaries.

During the workshop, Superintendent Addison Davis presented Scenario 4 — a hybrid of three other proposals provided by WXY Studio, an outside consultant — to board members for feedback.

He said the new proposal focused on four main areas: the capacity and utilization of each facility, driving distance and walkability for students, creating stability in neighborhoods, and remaining financially responsible.

The proposal is a multi-year approach and would begin implementation in the 2023-24 school year.

The plan would reduce the number of over-utilized and under-utilized schools from 23 to zero and lower the number of potentially impacted students from 24,000 to just over 15,000.

Some of the changes implemented in the first year of the new plan would include a full repurpose of Just Elementary, a partial repurpose of Town and Country Elementary, and a configuration change at Carrollwood K-8.

In addition, the growing population of immigrant students at Town and Country Elementary will be addressed with a Newcomers’ Center.

READ MORE: Tampa Bay area organizations are working to help the growing immigrant population

Members did not reach the consensus they hoped for during this week's workshop, with many voicing concerns about the proposal.

Board member Lynn Gray brought up House Bill 1, which if passed during the upcoming legislative session, will make all Florida public school-age children eligible to receive a school voucher.

“House Bill 1 will share money to many of our parents, and those parents may, of course, choose to put their students in another venue, which means we are going to subtract a lot of our money we would have had,” Gray said.

Davis agreed, saying, “House Bill 1 is before us and it is going to openly, probably, cripple public education.”

Board Vice Chair Henry “Shake” Washington, whose District 5 has the most students who would be affected by Davis' plan, openly opposed it.

“I want to know how many kids from District 5 are going to be afforded a better education, because that's what it's about," Washington said. "It's not about just moving kids. It's not about money. It's about students being successful in Hillsborough County.”

He added, "Black and brown students are ones that are always being moved, always, no matter what."

Despite the pushback, Davis reiterated that the board has to do something to fix both over- and under-utilized schools.

“We have to do something. Doing nothing is not going to allow us to continue to follow multiple things,” Davis told board members.

The school district pushed the workshop back two weeks to allow for more discussion. Davis said more than 18,000 people have attended community meetings on the subject or posted comments on the district website.

No votes were taken this week, and it is unclear whether another workshop will be scheduled for board members to reach a consensus.

Five community meetings will be offered nest week for families and staff to view and discuss the latest plan:

  • Monday, February 20, 6–7:30 p.m., King High School 
  • Monday, February 20, 6–7:30 p.m., Mulrennan Middle School
  • Wednesday, February 22, 6–7:30 p.m., Webb Middle School
  • Thursday, February 23, 6–7:30 p.m., Madison Middle School 
  • Thursday, February 23, 6–7:30 p.m., Chamberlain High School 

The first reading of the proposed rezoning is scheduled for a school board meeting February 28 at 10 a.m., where public comment will be allowed.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.
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