Hillsborough weighs complicated school boundary changes

- Thousands of Hillsborough County students could be going to new schools in 2018 after the county finalizes a plan to re-draw school boundaries of several schools in north Tampa and New Tampa.

With a housing boom in New Tampa, the district is preparing to deal with an influx of new families.

"That means we expect families to go in, children to come in, and so we need seats for those students and so we're looking at boundary changes in the New Tampa area, in north Tampa because we now have to look geographically and what makes more sense of where to put students," said Tanya Arja, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Schools.

There are about 4,000 students who may be shuffled around for the start of the 2018 school year, Arja said.

A little less than half of them are in New Tampa. The district has been busing a lot of students to schools in that area from north Tampa because there was space. But with more families moving, the district wants to use that space for students who will be living in that area.

But that means the district also needs to free up space in north Tampa. One option is to combine Van Buren Middle School and Cahoon Magnet into one K-8 school; Van Buren is far under capacity.

Also in New Tampa, roughly 500 students at Pride Elementary School, which is near-capacity, would be moved to Hunter's Green Elementary, which is about three-quarters full and less than two miles away.

"The whole idea is to make sure that students are not getting on a bus and driving past maybe two or three other schools when there are schools closer to their home," Arja continued.

Another issue is that the district currently leases space at the Museum of Science and Industry for its MOSI Partnership School. That lease, however, expires in 2018 and the museum is moving to downtown Tampa, leaving 800 students currently assigned to the school needing new school assignments.

The district has planned two informational meetings for parents who could be affected. The first was planned for Tuesday night at Van Buren Midde School and focuses on north Tampa students currently attending MOSI Partnership School, Forest Hills, Mort, Pizzo, Shaw and Witter elementary schools, plus Van Buren and Greco middle schools.

The second meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Benito Middle School cafeteria. The focus will be on students currently assigned to Heritage, Hunter's Green and Pride elementary schools.

The uncertainty has left some parents concerned.

"We're scared. We don't want to move. So we hope that we don't go to some of the schools that aren't as good as Pride," said Alicia Duffy, who has two children who attend Pride Elementary.

Kanchan Dhau, who is also a mother of a Pride Elementary student, said her family has put on hold their plans to buy a house because they want to make sure her child can still attend the same school.

"I stopped my plan. Now I'm just waiting," she said. "He likes this school, so he has friends and he's comfortable with all that stuff, so if we are changing the school, initially he will not be comfortable."

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