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West Tampa's Just Elementary will be closed, despite a community outcry

Exterior of Just Elementary School with a fence in the foreground
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The Hillsborough County School Board voted to close Just Elementary in West Tampa on May 9, 2023.

Just Elementary students are performing poorly and the school has a shortage of qualified teachers, according to the school district.

The Hillsborough County School Board Tuesday voted to close Just Elementary School in West Tampa.

It was an emotional night for members of the community.

Sixty people spoke during the board meeting in favor of keeping the school open. But in the end, the board voted 4-3 to close it.

Board member Jessica Vaughn voted against closing the school, saying the community has made it clear what they want for their kids.

"We constantly talk about parental choice and we have a community — more speakers than we've had in a long time — all coming together telling us their choice is to keep Just open and to invest in their school," Vaughn said.

The school district says a lack of qualified teachers is causing Just students to under-perform. Nearly half the classes are taught by substitutes.

Board member Stacy Hahn says placing the students in better schools is the best thing for them.

"To leave them in a triple-F school knowing what we know and looking at the data, that is heartbreaking to me," Hahn said.

The plan is to move Just students to Booker T. Washington or Tampa Bay Boulevard elementary schools. They will also have the chance to enroll in three nearby magnet schools.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.