If you drive through Southern Hillsborough County, it’s inevitable you’ll find construction workers building new homes.
But the booming population has caused overcrowding issues at schools, specifically Lennard and East Bay high schools.
That’s why the groundbreaking ceremony to start construction on a new high school is an exciting chapter school leaders and the community have been waiting for.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins and School Board members joined community leaders along with design and construction professionals for a ceremonial “First Dig” photo on the property.
This marks the first high school to be built in our district in more than ten years.
“This is going to be the biggest high school we’ve opened in the history of Hillsborough County Schools,” said Chris Farkas, Deputy Superintendent for Operations. “We will have one more year of overcrowding at Lennard and East Bay then we will have a big relief.”
The district partnered with construction professionals CORE/HORUS Construction along with design professionals from Harvard Jolly. They provided the first showcase renderings of the school and campus.
The new school is on Balm Road just east of U.S. 301. It will cost $75 million to build.
The school will open for the 2020 school year and hold nearly 3,000 students.
“I’m so excited about attending the new high school because looking at the designs, it looks like an awesome school,” said 9th grader Peyton Mungaray.
School Board readings are scheduled for two upcoming board meetings: December 4, 2018 and January 15, 2019.
To review the proposed information and maps, please visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/boundaries
District leaders wanted to reinvent how the school was designed. So, they took input from teachers, along with experts in the workforce and career training, to build a school catered to educators needs.
“Teachers usually get the keys to the room but never get a say on how they want the room designed,” said Farkas. “So, it was exciting for us because when we build our next school we can do the same process”.
“I don’t think a lot of the people in the community understand how difficult it is for the educators to get their vision to the group that plans and designs the project,” said John Wiseman, President of CORE Construction. “A tremendous amount of work has gone into place by the school board, the district and design team to make this happen.”
Harvard Jolly and CORE/HORUS Construction have built many schools throughout the state of Florida.
They brought innovative new ideas to make this high school state of the art.
“It’s going to be one of the best schools in the area and I believe in the country,” said Wiseman.
Jonathan Graham, President of HORUS construction, has been working with Hillsborough County Schools for more than 25 years. He’s proud to represent the small and minority business portion of the project.
“We knew that there was going to be money constraints,” said Graham.” So, we had to work diligently to be good stewards of taxpayer money along with the money saved for this school. We had to get the best quality for this school and make sure the price was on budget.”
The school will also be conserving water and energy with water valves underneath the parking lots along with solar panels.
Finally, the education needs. When talking with different kinds of educators, district leaders came up with curriculum to help students not only wanting to attend college but those interested in a technical career.
“We’re trying to connect the high school to jobs in the real world,” said Farkas. “We’ve been this school for all types of students such as the AP student heading to the Ivy League school as well as the students going to a technical college.”
With South Hillsborough being one of the fastest-growing areas in the county, the district will need to build around 30 new schools there in the next 15 years.
“The interesting part is the new school is being built on a site more south, where things are starting to grow.” Said Graham. “So, by the time this school is completed, it will be at full capacity.”
But paying for those schools will be a challenge. Florida ranks 44th out of the 50 states in funding for education, and money used to build new schools has been cut twice in the past decade by the Legislature.
Nearly all the money coming to the district from a new half-penny sales tax will be set aside for overdue maintenance at existing schools.
Currently, Lennard High School has 24 portables on campus. The school is designed for 2,500 students and currently has an enrollment of more than 3,100. In addition, more than 900 students are projected to move into Lennard’s current school boundaries in the next few years.
At East Bay High School, the district just opened a new wing in August with capacity for 500 additional students. The school is now designed for 2,500 students. But even with the school’s new wing, the school’s current enrollment is 2,300 and 900 more students are projected to move into this school’s boundaries over the next few years.
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