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Can a new high school keep up with growth?

Published on: December 5, 2018

Number of students continues to rise,

construction begins on new school

Groundbreaking for new area high school

as committee reviews sales tax hike spending

By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON

The golden spades were put to use in a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 5 for the first high school built in the Hillsborough County Public Schools district in 10 years.

Construction and school enrollment is exploding in South County with attendance expected to leap by thousands over the next three years.

In a related event, the Citizen Oversight Committee, which monitors the spending on the recently approved Education Referendum, held its first meeting Nov. 30.

The ceremonial “first dig’” shovels for the new high school hit the dirt last week on Wednesday morning. The new school is not covered by the November half-cent sales tax hike referendum. The new “High School TTT,” as it is known for planning purposes, will offer relief to overcrowded neighboring schools Lennard High and East Bay High. The new school is designed with more than 238,000 square feet and an estimated enrollment of 3,000 students. High School TTT is projected to cost $70 million to construct. This school is funded by three years of impact fee collections. The new school site is 10650 C.R. 672, Riverview. The Hillsborough School Board is mulling over attendance boundaries at current school board meetings.

Construction and school enrollment is booming in South Hillsborough County, with school attendance expected to leap by thousands over the next three years. The high schools in the South Shore area are already near or over capacity. Even now, Lennard High has 24 portables on campus. Lennard is designed for 2,500 students and currently enrolls more than 3,100. Also, according to the Hillsborough School District, more than 900 students are projected to move into Lennard’s current school boundaries in the next few years.

As for East Bay High School, the district just opened a new wing in August with a capacity for 55 additional students. East Bay High is currently designed for 2,500 students. The new wing has put the current enrollment at 2,300, with 900 more students projected to move into the East Bay High boundaries over the next few years.

With the construction now underway from other sources of funding, the Citizen Oversight Committee met for the first time in Tampa last week for a briefing of current practices in school construction and to discuss their procedures and “way of work.” A detailed list of the 1,785 school improvement projects planned over the next 10 years is available at www.hillsboroughschools.org/referendum. The Oberver News ran a detailed list for South Shore school projects in its Oct. 25 edition, which you can read online at tinyurl.com/ObserverNews-School-Projects.

In future meetings, the Citizen Oversight Committee will review the spending, progress, and completion of all spending related to the $131 million-a-year revenue generated by the voter-approved half-penny sales tax. This is a 10-year referendum, which addresses essential district needs including air conditioning, aging roofs, class technology, and safety and security improvements.

The money will start funneling into the district in February, and the projects will be spread over the 10-year life of the referendum

A detailed list of the 1,785 school improvement projects planned over the next 10 years is available at www.hillsboroughschools.org/referendum.

School district maintenance teams will focus on high-priority projects. Outside bids will be sought from vendors for larger projects such as fire alarm replacements, school repainting and elevator upgrades. Crews will start the first phase of these projects in March and April.

The first wave of the major projects, including up to 20 air-conditioner replacements and millions in roof repairs, is expected to start over the summer when school and staff are off campus.

The Citizen Oversight Committee is chaired by Betty Castor, former USF president and Florida Commissioner of Education. The vice chair of the committee is Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister. Other Committee members are Bonnie Carr, accountant and former VP and Chief Financial Officer for HCC; Dr. Earl Lennard, former Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and Former Superintendant of Schools; Ed Narain, former State Representative; and José Valiente, CPA and former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

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