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Hillsborough County Mulls School Closures To Make Up For Budget Shortfall

Superintendent Addison Davis answers children's questions about coronavirus
Screenshot: Hillsborough County Schools
Screenshot: Hillsborough County Schools
Superintendent Addison Davis has raised the possibility of having to close or merge some Hillsborough County schools, to help bridge a multimillion dollar cash shortfall.

District officials say talks are at an early phase, that public input will be a key part of the process, and that no schools are slated for closure this year or next.

Hillsborough County, home to the third largest school district in Florida after Miami-Dade and Broward, is considering closing or merging some schools as it faces a multimillion dollar budget shortfall.

A spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Schools told WUSF on Tuesday the district is in the “information-gathering phase” only.

“We will continue to have conversations and analyze information to simply begin the discussion about options for these schools,” Erin Maloney said in an email.

“If any schools were to be closed, it would not happen this year or next. These are complex decisions and we would certainly engage the public and stakeholders before making any decisions in the future,” she added.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in February that Superintendent Addison Davis was preparing to bring to the board a list of 60 under-enrolled schools, which are at least 30 percent vacant.

The issue first came up during a budget workshop in January, when Davis warned board members that other budget fixes could include layoffs and unpaid days off for district staff.

He said the cost-cutting measures are necessary, or else the district could run out of operating money by this summer.

Teachers unions traditionally oppose the notion of closing schools, because of the negative impact on communities.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.