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The Hillsborough School Board delays boundary changes once again

School board members sit behind a wooden dais with a crowd looking on.
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The Hillsborough County School Board held a special meeting on Feb. 28. Board members voted unanimously against making a decision on boundary changes.

Board members voted unanimously against making a decision on the boundary changes at Tuesday's meeting. They will hold another workshop on March 9.

The Hillsborough School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to hold yet another workshop concerning school boundary changes throughout the county.

During the public comment period, many people opposed Scenario 4 — the latest proposal recommended by Superintendent Addison Davis — due to a lack of community response.

But Davis said engagement has grown since talks began last September.

"We started with 1,300 participants, we transitioned to 441,000 participants involved in this process," Davis said. "I would say that's major growth for engagement.”

But Yvette Lewis, President of the Hillsborough NAACP chapter, said she has a lot of concerns with the current plans.

"We need to put a halt on things so we can educate our people on (how) this will impact our kids."

She added that she feels the community outreach has not been enough, especially since a lot of inner-city families affected by the proposed changes cannot attend board meetings.

“Please don't penalize us because we don't go to meetings," Lewis said. "We got to go to work to support our kids. And then when we come home, we got to get them ready to go back to school. So just because you don't see us all at a meeting, don't penalize us.”

RELATED: At a Hillsborough workshop, questions raised over latest proposal to create new school boundaries

More than twenty members of the community spoke during the board meeting, where some got emotional.

“My concern is not my own children. My own children will be fine. My concern is the 200 kids that come from four different transformation elementary schools, and are bused miles and miles away to a school that does not have the same resources," said one mother who spoke.

"The kids who will no longer have reading and math coaches, the kids whose parents never get to step foot on our campus, the kids who don't get to participate in sports or extracurricular activities. The kids who get on a bus 45 minutes before my own children even wake up in the morning, and who return home an hour after I pick mine up in car line."

While most of the speakers opposed the proposed changes, some voiced strong support for the new boundary changes.

"We're being called privileged and entitled. We have another title. We're voters. We voted people in to do the right thing by all schools," said a woman who identified herself as Lisa. "South Tampa has an uncharacteristically high voter turnout. We also have memories... We also have social networks. We will remember how everyone voted when we go to the polls."

Board member Stacy Hahn of District 2 initially supported the newest proposal. But she says what she saw Tuesday looks a lot different from the scenario presented at a workshop on Feb. 13.

"Based on some of the concerns even raised today, around the impact on Title One services for students being moved, around feeder patterns, selling schools, transportation costs, the need to address overcapacity, the more community input that is needed, we have groups that feel like they've been marginalized in this process and need more opportunities to interact with board members and be heard," she said.

Board members ultimately voted unanimously to once again take up Scenario 4 at a workshop.

That will happen March 9, where they'll discuss transportation, financial savings and school zoning, among other issues.

Davis said it will allow board members to tell the administration the needs and possible impacts to their districts.

He added that, despite delays, Hillsborough County School Choice will still take place March 8 through April 30.

Meghan Bowman is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for spring of 2023.