TAMPA, Fla. — There should be fewer complaints about sweltering classrooms in Hillsborough County Schools as crews start work this summer to replace 21 air conditioning systems and 13 aging roofs throughout the district, thanks to funds from the half-cent sales tax referendum voters approved in November.

The district just received its first check in early April from county sales tax, and before major projects get underway, the district has already begun working on other upgrades in high-need locations.

The track at Dowdell Middle School is one of 50 playgrounds, tracks and athletic courts crews will soon replace with money from sales tax collections. Workers began tearing out the old track on Thursday, and will lay down a new one on Friday.

“The condition was horrible,” said Peyton Nisy, a student at Dowdell who also ran on the track team.

His teammate, Zachariah Walker, agreed. “It was easy to stumble and slip,” he said.

There were even periods during the year that students couldn’t use the track because it was in such poor shape.

To outsiders, the upgrade at Dowdell might seem minor, but students notice. It’s one of more than 1,700 projects, large and small, the district needs to complete over the next 10 years.

“I shouted for joy. I did my little hallelujah dance, and I was ready,” said Ronja Smith, Dowdell teacher and track coach. “I know the benefits of having a track and building that activity for our students. It helped me, and I know it will help them."

The district will get a check every month from sales tax collections, and over the next 10 years, leaders will also use the money to invest more than $1 million in school security improvements.

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