Better Call Behnken: Kids could be out of luck if Hillsborough charter school doesn’t open by Friday

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hundreds of students have been out of school for nearly two weeks, waiting on a new charter school that may not be finished in time for this school year.

Advant Garde Academy Westchase, at 13901 Sheldon Rd., received two extensions from the superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools. But, time is up.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins has given the school a deadline. If it is not ready and does not have its certificate of occupancy from Hillsborough County by Friday at noon, the school will have to wait until next school year to open.

Eakins delivered the news in a letter to school administrators.

“After promises from your staff to open on August 10, and then on August 21 – promises which have not been kept – I have determined August 25 will be the final decision date,” Eakins wrote.

Eakins went on to write, “It is your school’s responsibility to provide a safe, effective learning environment for students.”

Related: Avant Garde Academy Westchase Options For Parents

General Contractor Alan Zirkelbach, of Zirkelbach Construction, blames this mess on a mirage of problems, mainly a late start-date of March and a storm that flooded the building before the roof was done.

He said he has brought in additional crews, including 30 electricians, to work overtime to get this school complete by deadline.

School principal Deedra Copeland said she has tried to inform parents of the progress, but parents called 8 On Your Side looking for answers. They also took to the school’s Facebook page to complain about the lack of communication.

This new charter school is managed by Alliance Education Services, based in North Carolina.

School district employees and officials from Hillsborough County government plan to inspect the school buildings on Friday morning.

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