By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Dave Brown is set to open his second high school as principal next year in Riverview, this time with security upgrades, a sixth-grade and the opportunity for students to earn a Bright Futures scholarship with 100 community service hours and an AICE diploma.
High School TTT — as it is known until it gets its formal name — is set to be the county’s only high school to offer the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Diploma. The international curriculum and examination system emphasizes broad and balanced study to ensure college-ready students.
“It’s fairly equivalent to the IB program,” said Brown, who as principal in 2009 opened Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, which offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma. “Students can earn a Bright Futures scholarship with an AICE diploma and 100 community service hours, regardless of SAT score or grade-point average.”
Under construction at 16402 Balm Road, just east of U.S. 301, the new school is sorely needed to meet explosive growth in the South Shore area. It’s set to relieve both Earl J. Lennard High School in Ruskin and East Bay High in Gibsonton. The 240,000-square-foot campus is set to accommodate 2,900 students, making it the district’s largest school and the first district-built school since 2009.
Community meetings to meet the principal and architect and to discuss particulars were scheduled for Sept. 25 at East Bay and at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 at Lennard High. The Hillsborough County School Board at its Oct. 15 meeting is set to name the school and pick its mascot. Community recommendations will be accepted through Oct. 4. (To submit your suggestions, email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Builders and school officials gathered on school grounds Sept. 19 for the traditional “topping out” ceremony, a customary celebration in the construction industry, likened to a “good old-fashioned barn-raising.” It marks also the first introduction of the building to the public.
Among the particulars learned: the stadium will have artificial turf, and to help relieve run-over traffic on main roads during peak school-travel times, the school is set to have a drop-off and pick-up queue that is the largest of any school in the county. Cameras and other state-of-the-art security measures are in place, including a layout that keeps student areas separate from areas open to outside visitors during school hours.
“This high school represents what’s coming to the area,” said Hillsborough School Board member Melissa Snively. “We know that there’s an enormous amount of growth projected in the south part of the county, so this is the first big step towards managing student population and capacity for our schools.”
Indeed, at a Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce Government and Economic Affairs Committee meeting in September, Jason Pepe, chamber chairman and the school district’s manager of legislative services, addressed the construction challenge. “We need 35 schools in 15 years, primarily in the south county area, and it takes three years to collect impact fees to build one high school,” he said.
Both Pepe and Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White, also at the meeting, said commissioners and school board members have been holding joint meetings to address issues related to new schools for burgeoning growth.
Meanwhile, High School TTT is set to welcome sixth-graders by choice, to relieve overcrowding at Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, “which is bursting at the seams, and building a new middle school is probably three years away,” Brown said. Sixth-graders who volunteer to attend the new high school can opt to stay there for grades 7 and 8 as well, he added, ensuring a seven-year run at the two-story school under construction at a cost of around $75 million.
“They’ll probably be on the same bell schedule, take the same bus transportation, but the curriculum will be 100 percent different,” Brown said. “Then when they get to eighth grade, it could be beneficial for them to take high school courses, like Algebra I and Spanish. I’ll have built-in tutors, upper classmen, to help them out.”
The new school will open also with grades 9, 10 and 11, as it is district policy to allow incoming seniors to stay in their current schools to graduate. The new school’s first graduating class will be in 2022.
Meanwhile, Brown is busy at work getting to know his new community and preparing for the opening of the first district-built high school since Strawberry Crest in Dover and George M. Steinbrenner High in Lutz opened in 2009.
“It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together, getting the right people in the right place,” Brown said. “This is my job, and I love my job 100 percent. My job is to make sure our students graduate, to give them teachers who are warm and welcoming and to give them the education they need to prepare for the future.”