By Sean Bowes
The Hillsborough County School Board (HCSB) recently approved the introduction of 10 charter schools which could open around the county, including one in New Tampa that has residents of Richmond Place and West Meadows very concerned. The City of Tampa will decide on Thursday, January 12, if the controversial school will be built in the area.
Advantage Academy of Hillsborough Inc. is hoping to build a K-8 school on a plot of land on Highwoods Preserve Pkwy. at Brinegar Cir. in West Meadows. Some local residents fear that the introduction of a school in the area would bring in an influx of traffic that would be “catastrophic” for drivers and residents in the area.
The 17.9-acre parcel of land would eventually be home to nearly 1,000 students and 250 more children in the school’s day care center, which would be built next to the school.
Although the School Board approved the plan for the charter school, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the school will ever be built. In fact, unless the City
Council allows the land to be re-zoned, the new school would not be allowed to be built. Currently, the property is only approved for multi-family housing or a church, according to its existing zoning permit. The land is still currently owned by Joyful Servants Lutheran Church and has an asking price of $1,399,000. According to Mark Cooley, the real estate broker who is handling the sale, the deal between the Advantage Academy of Hillsborough and Joyful Servants is pending the January 12 City Council meeting.
“We are committed to that location,” says president of Charter School Assoc. Mike Strader. “It is a desirable, attractive location with lots of trees and it would be great for the future of the school.”
Both the charter school and the day care center would have two entrance and exit points on Highwood Preserve Pkwy and a new traffic signal also will be constructed at the intersection with StoneView Dr. On the school’s campus, there would be 129 parking spaces between the two facilities for teachers and staff.
The school will undeniably bring more cars onto Highwoods Preserve Pkwy, but, what has some Richmond Place and West Meadows residents concerned is the possible volume of traffic that they believe could clog the two-lane road. The West Meadows and Richmond Place homeowners associations (HOA)s have now teamed together, for the first time ever, to petition against the school.
“It’s not that we have anything against having another school in New Tampa,” says West Meadows HOA president Brad van Rooyen. “But, that land was never zoned for a school and the amount of traffic it would bring in would be awful. The HOAs never get involved with things like this; however, this is something that would (negatively) affect (both) communities.”
The school, if built, would open in August 2012 with about 600 students, and then it would add another building to accommodate for a student body of roughly 960. The day care facility would not be built until 2015 and would have room for 250 students. There is no tuition paid to charter schools, and Advantage Academy Hillsborough, which is based out of Plant City, focuses on foreign languages, math and science.
Many parents gathered at Harold H. Clark Elementary in Wrst Meadows on November 14 to express their concerns about the introduction of a new K-8 school in the area and to discuss the possible change in traffic patterns. Some parents brought up the point that there are currently nine elementary or middle schools in a four-mile radius of the proposed school, all of which had an “A” rating this year from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE).
“The New Tampa location would be a science, technology, engineering and math campus,” says Strader. “Having the charter school in New Tampa would give parents the option of sending their child to a school with a very focused curriculum.”
According to van Rooyen, residents at West Meadows and Richmond Place plan to make their opposition of the school heard by the City Council.
On January 12, the West Meadows and Richmond Place HOAs have made transportation available to any residents who would like to voice their opinion about the proposed school at the final City Council meeting in downtown Tampa. To reserve a seat on one of the buses, contact Brad van Rooyen at 404-8241 or Email Brad@homeencounter.com.