Population Boom: Hillsborough will need 20 new schools in next 15-20 years

Yellow school bus on the blacktop on a beautiful sunny day.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In just a couple of weeks, the hallways of Robinson High School in South Tampa will be teeming with students.  And, it’ll certainly be noticeable.

Robinson is one of at least five schools in Hillsborough County that are bursting at the seams.

“It definitely has a negative impact on student learning,” said Hillsborough County School District Chief Operating Officer Christopher Farkas.

Over the next couple of years, an extra wing will be added to Robinson High School to cut down on overcrowding.

That’s not the only huge endeavor the school district has on the books.

A 5-year facilities work plan indicates the district needs at least 20 schools in the next 15 to 20 years.  The area where they’re most needed is South Hillsborough County where new home construction is taking off and where the population will go up.

The nearly two dozen new schools will cost $1 billion.  The work plan also mentions other repairs and projects, like roofing, paving, and painting, that’ll require $900 million.

“Money’s going to dictate that – to be perfectly honest with you.  We can only build what we have the money to build,” Farkas said.

And therein lies the problem.

“The reality is we do not have funding currently to build the schools,” Farkas said.

The district hopes some of the construction will be paid for with impact fees, which are collected on new or proposed development projects.

Taxpayers understand the need.

“Education is extremely important,” said parent Austin Simon.  “If we don’t have the education, then how do we have growth?”

But, as of right now, the district can’t cough up the $2 billion and they don’t have plans to scrap plans for new schools because they’re desperately needed.

The work plan will be discussed at a School Board meeting Tuesday.

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