Hillsborough County School Board to address $100 million budget shortfall

Education

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough County School Board will meet on Thursday to address a $100 million budget shortfall.

The school board will be looking for ways to raise or save money before it might run out of funds this summer.

With more than 188,000 students, the Hillsborough County School District is the country’s seventh largest. It has 25,000 employees, the same number of employees as the Broward County School District, which has 30,000 more students.

Superintendent Addison Davis said changes are coming, including possible job cuts that could affect 1,500 teachers and staff members.

“The good thing is we usually hire between 1,100 to 1,200 teachers annually, so we’ll be able to use that to protect people and not positions,” Davis said.

Davis has likened his first year as being superintendent to building an airplane while it’s in the air. In the past year, he’s been tasked with finding the best ways to protect students and teachers during a pandemic while still holding classes. Despite his best efforts, Davis said students have struggled with learning this past year.

A year into the pandemic, Davis is happy to report that 75% of students are back to in class.

“We missed so many standards and core concepts from March until the end of May that our children need foundation skills especially in kindergarten. Not opening up, I believe they will see and suffer the learning losses are real,” Davis said.

Davis said the district worked with health experts over the past year to make changes to protect students and staff. He’s pleaded with Tallahassee to get teachers vaccinated quicker. He says he feels good knowing employees 50 and up are protected now that they’re eligible to get vaccinated, and that younger staff will soon follow.

Davis said he’s also happy about the CDC’s new three-foot social distancing recommendation for classrooms.

“Education is not built to social distance. Our classrooms are not. Our hallways are not. Our common areas are not, but we had to work hard to modify and refine all of our efforts to be able to compete with that. So to be able to relax that to 3 feet allows us have greater connectivity to host small group instruction. Especially for those who have experienced learning loss or unfinished learning,” said Davis.

Davis said the district should receive about $170 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government. The money will go towards after school learning opportunities and helping students who’ve had to stay home get ahead.

The Hillsborough School Board will meet for a budget workshop at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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