Hillsborough County Public Schools
hillsborough construction

Hillsborough County (Fla.) district copes with growth and decline at the same time

Dec. 22, 2021
In some parts of the county, the 224,000-student district needs to build more campuses to handle growth, but in other areas, schools are significantly under capacity.

With growth in some areas and decline in others, the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district faces the challenge of providing enough classrooms in neighborhoods that need more schools while dealing with unused capacity at other campuses.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that a consultant’s report cites a need for 18 new campuses in the next 15 years. Most of those would be built in growing south part of Hillsborough County.

At the same time, the district has 60 schools that are at least a third empty, including 12 that have been operating at 50% capacity or less.

Those schools with underused classrooms are not in the areas where the student population is increasing. Typically, they are in urban areas and inner-ring suburbs. The fast growth is happening in once-rural communities.

Closing or finding new uses for underused schools is a delicate issue. Superintendent Addison Davis said earlier this year that it wasn’t wise for the district to keep operating some of its schools at significantly less than capacity, but he received pushback from board members and community leaders who did not want to see neighborhoods disrupted by closures.

The good news for the parts of the county that need new schools is that the district is better positioned to build than it has been in years past. A sales tax approved by voters in 2018 is raising money for new school construction. And the county in 2020 raised impact fees that are assessed to housing developers.

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