SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
The new elementary school will handle about 950 students, but would open in August with about 320, reducing enrollment at Bevis Elementary.
LITHIA - Parents of the more than 1,000 students crowded into Bevis Elementary are relieved that a second school will open for their community next August, one year ahead of schedule.
But some worry that the new school's proposed attendance boundaries won't pull enough students from Bevis, leaving little breathing room at the 3-year-old school.
During a meeting at Newsome High School on Tuesday, Hillsborough County School District officials unveiled for close to 100 parents and students their proposal for filling the new school, which will be located on the south side of Dorman Road in the eastern half of FishHawk Ranch.
The superintendent will review the proposal and parents' suggestions before bringing it to the school board for final approval.
"And the board has been known to make changes, even at the final hour," said Steve Ayers, administrator for pupil administrative services.
The new school's boundary would encompass sections of FishHawk Ranch south of FishHawk Boulevard and east of Osprey Ridge Drive, as well as homes in the older community of FishHawk Trails.
Among the FishHawk areas to be included in the new school's attendance zone: Sandhill Place, Skylark Crest, Gannet Glade, Whimbrel Wood, Ibis Park, Phoebe Park, and large swaths of land to the west where ground isn't even broken on hundreds of planned homes.
The new school will be built to hold about 950 students, but would open in August with about 320 students - at least 280 who live in the eastern half of FishHawk Ranch and in nearby FishHawk Trails. Another 40 students would move to the campus from Pinecrest Elementary, located to the west on Lithia-Pinecrest.
District officials caution that their estimates are based only on students currently enrolled in Bevis and Pinecrest, so the opening-day enrollment projection is conservative.
Considering more than 6,000 new students entered Hillsborough's schools this year, with much of the growth in booming south Hillsborough County, Ayers said he won't be surprised if the new school opens with 450 students.
Already, district officials know more than 500 elementary-age children will move into FishHawk homes planned over the next few years.
The boundary changes would leave Bevis - now 20 percent above capacity with close to 1,100 students - at about 85 percent of its 902-student capacity, with some 800 children.
That includes 63 students currently bused to Bevis for desegregation purposes. Those children likely will choose other schools closer to home once the district starts its controlled choice program in August, Ayers said.
About 200 students attending Bevis through special assignment also will graduate into middle school or move to neighborhood schools in the next few years, he predicts.
Still, parents told Ayers they believe Bevis needs more room to grow.
"I walk around a lot of these areas carved out for Bevis, and there's still a lot of homes going up there," said FishHawk Ranch resident Michael Brennan, who has a kindergartener and third grader at Bevis.
"I just want to make sure this plan leaves room for that," Brennan said. "One of my children is in a portable right now, which I think is terrible."
Ayers said the district's proposal takes into account those homes under construction. But if both schools become crowded over the next few years, the district has land for a third elementary school in FishHawk Trails.
In the meantime, parents are eager to name their new school and meet the new teachers - even if it means leaving the school they've come to love over the past three years.
"Any time you have people leaving your school, you're losing wonderful people," said Bevis Principal Beverly Carbaugh. "But this will be our sister school. This isn't going to be territorial. These are still our kids, just down the street from each other."
- Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 661-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The proposed attendance boundary for a second elementary school opening next year to serve the FishHawk area in Lithia would move about 280 students from Bevis Elementary to the new campus, located off Dorman Road. Here's the subdivisions that would attend the new school, in addition to all of FishHawk Trails and any future homes built in the eastern portion of FishHawk Ranch:
- Source: Hillsborough County School District