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Hillsborough County (Fla.) district to examine possible campus mergers or closures

Feb. 15, 2021
Superintendent says 60 of the district's schools are more than 30% vacant.

Schools in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district with too many empty seats will be eyed for possible mergers or even shutdowns for the year after next, the district’s leadership team says.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Superintendent Addison Davis and his staff are in the first stages of assessing under-enrolled schools and re-drawing attendance boundaries as part of their effort to stop deficit spending.

Davis says he has identified 60 schools that are at least 30% vacant.

“We can’t keep the lights on, and maintain operations and instructional materials, and put all the resources in a school when you only have 200-plus students,” Davis says.

Davis and Deputy Superintendent Michael Kemp say it will take about a year to work through the redistricting and consolidation process.

Reconfiguring school attendance is one of many changes district leaders have outlined to build their cash reserves and avoid becoming vulnerable to a state takeover.

They are looking for ways to either raise or save $100 million by May or June, when they could otherwise run out of money. But they will not see savings from the coming year’s staff cuts until well after that.

In October, Hillsborough ran short on cash and took out a $75 million tax anticipation note, which is a type of bridge loan, to cover payroll. In January Moody’s Investor Service, a major bond-rating firm, issued a downgrade on some of Hillsborough’s debt and maintained its negative outlook of the district.

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