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Cuts could be coming to Hillsborough County schools

Superintendent Addison Davis sent out an email over the weekend informing parents that cuts would be happening across the district, but that plans are not finalized.

TAMPA, Fla. — In an email to parents on Saturday, Superintendent Addison Davis said cuts could be coming to many of the 250 schools across Hillsborough County. 

With attendance down and money going towards COVID-19 protective equipment, the district is preparing to change staffing and the allocation of resources.

Part of the issue is that student enrollment is down from what the district projected, by about 7,000 students. And of course, there are students in the district that chose virtual school.

Parents like Dr. Anne Lenz are worried about what happens when some of those students return to the classrooms. 

“So if you cut those open positions or those under-allocated classrooms, what happens when those students are ready to come back to school?"

When it comes to making cuts, the district has said it will look at active vacancies and retirements first. Superintendent Davis has been meeting with principals to make such decisions. 

Nonetheless, parents are worried about what more changes, to an already complicated school year, could do to their children. 

“They're finally feeling stable and at home again," Dr. Lenz said. "And to have that shift, as far as the schedule change, or a loss of a teacher is just more disruption for our children who are already feeling, you know, constantly uncertain about how things are going to go.”

The district has made it clear that existing programs such as music, art, physical education, and advanced coursework, will not be cut. The district has also said that changes will be made over the course of two years.

Dr. Lenz is aiming to rally support around teachers and school programs with her petition. In less than 12 hours, it garnered over 2,000 signatures.

She says her frustration is not aimed entirely at the school district. 

“This is all coming from the state down. The issue is that we are underfunded altogether," Dr. Lenz said. “We have been waiting for better funding in Florida for public education for years. And the answer is not cut more, the answer is fund more.”

On Sunday, Superintendent Addison posted a statement on the school district's website, saying: 

Dear Families,

You may have seen reports recently of budget and staff cuts throughout the district. I want to take a moment to address these reports.

Enrollment is down and our budget needs to be realigned to ensure fiscal responsibility. There must be staff reallocations, at all levels, to help adjust our district. Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at master schedules, as well as enrollment, and looking at where these adjustments need to be made. This is an ongoing process. At this time staffing decisions have not been finalized and they won’t be until the beginning of the second quarter.

I want to be clear, we will accomplish this process while preserving existing programs such as music, art, physical education, and advanced coursework. I ask you to have patience while we work through this readjustment process at the district level and our nearly 250 schools.

Every day, I block off my entire morning to visit schools. I have had the privilege of visiting several each day and watching our incredible educators at work. I am seeing some extraordinarily creative and dynamic teaching! So many of our educators are coming up with new and fascinating methods to make sure our learners are engaged regardless of whether they’re brick and mortar or eLearning.

I am genuinely excited about the direction of our district and the passion of the people who make it run.

Finally, if you don’t follow your school or the district on social media, I encourage you to do so. Over the past few days, schools have been celebrating their Teacher of the Year, Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year and Educational Support Employee of the Year. I very much enjoy seeing how these schools have been honoring these incredible staff members on their social media accounts, and I know you will too.

Thank you for being wonderful partners in your student’s education.

On Monday, the school district will hold a meeting to discuss teachers' salaries.

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