Hillsborough Co. students head back to school amid cuts, fewer teachers, transportation woes

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla.  (WFLA) – It’s back to school for more than 200,000 students at approximately 250 Hillsborough County schools today.

The school board unanimously approved a $2.9 billion budget for the 2017-18 school year.

While enrollment is going up, the district has cut hundreds of jobs and many of them include teaching positions.

And just like countless other districts across the state, many are seeing red after lawmakers passed a controversial education bill in June that many school district officials say is bad for their students.

While the law funnels $140 million from public to charter schools, some wonder if the district can afford that.

“They’re going to see great instruction,” Supt. Jeff Eakins told News Channel 8.  “They’re going to see great resources.  They’re going to see technology.  They’re going to see the kinds of things that they’re expecting from Hillsborough County public schools.  But there might be other parts of our district right now that are going to feel some of those strains because we’re having to squeeze as much as we can, to be as efficient as possible.”

“I wish they would pull it out of somewhere else,” Yadira Lancaster of Tampa told News Channel 8.  I mean I’m pretty sure there are different places they could pull it from instead of the school systems.  I don’t know where but I’m pretty sure there’s others places they could pull it off.  Our kids need every type of income, sources they can get to better their education.>

“I believe in the county school system here,” said Lori McRae of Tampa.  “I’ve been really pleased with the public school system here in Florida.”

Another issue the district is facing is what’s known as “community busing” at middle and high schools.

It would affect more than 7,500 students throughout the county.

Like other districts across the state, they believe that they should not transport students who live within two miles of their schools unless there are specific hazards.

Superintendent Eakins told News Channel 8 that some parents appealed that decision and the district went out and checked the area and changed their mind.  That was not the case for other families.

The school board is also looking into spreading out school bell times so students can get to class on time.  Currently, bus drivers have approximately 27 minutes to drop off students at elementary, middle, and high schools.  Superintendent Eakins says that’s just not enough time because thousands of students have been late so far if just one thing goes wrong.

“If we can spread out our bell times and make sure our buses from drop-off to pick-up and have plenty of time to get to and from schools, we think that that’s going to maximize instructional time,” Supt. Eakins said.  “Kids will learn more and better and then we will be more efficient with the way we spend our dollars on the transportation side.”

Not all parents are on board with the change.

“They get out so late in the day, it’s not going to really be worth it to pick them up and then come back to worth and I might have to put them in after school care and that’s expensive,” said Jessica Hines of Tampa.

So what will the proposed times look like?

You can click on this link to input various times and see how different times could affect your family.


The school board also wants to hear what you have to say.  Here’s a list of meetings you can attend to voice your opinion on this proposal.

Chamberlain High School 9/5/2017 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Strawberry Crest High School 9/7/2017 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Jefferson High School 9/14/2017 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Riverview High School 9/19/2017 6:00-7:30 p.m.



MORE WFLA Back-to-School Coverage


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