HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – An elementary school in West Tampa could close by the end of the school year.
With a 4-3 vote by the Hillsborough County School Board, Just Elementary School is one step closer to hearing its final bell.
“It’s about the kids,” said Hillsborough County NAACP president Yvette Lewis. “We don’t want them to be uprooted and leave their community.”
A heartbreaking plea from the community and a problem that needs solving.
In 2015, 550 students were enrolled at Just Elementary School.
This school year, that number has plummeted to just 284.
“We have major issues with creating the best educational environment possible for 284 students,” said Superintendent Addison Davis.
Just Elementary is the only school in the district to receive an “F” grade from the state in 2022.
“Right now, we look at last year’s analytics, [the] school was rated [an] F school with 11% of the student body proficient in the area of literacy,” Davis explained.
Sending the kids to either Booker T. Washington Elementary School or Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School — both 2.3 miles away and “C” schools.
Davis says it will “improve the experience when you have consistently high quality teachers in front of children every single day.”
“These two particular schools, Booker T. Washington [and] Tampa Bay Boulevard, we have those availabilities to be stronger in front of children,” he continued.
But the decision to shut down an elementary school in a predominantly Black neighborhood has many concerned.
Aikeen Barnes attended the school years ago and is now the uncle to a Just Elementary School student.
He couldn’t believe the news.
“I don’t think it’s right or fair because I went to that school, there’s a lot of history there,” he said. “Kids that grew up or are growing up in this neighborhood won’t have a chance.”
“It is time for the Hillsborough County School Board to take African American students serious,” Lewis added. “Bussing kids out to a school that don’t even want them — it doesn’t work.”
Hillsborough County School Board member Henry “Shake” Washington spoke up against the proposal Tuesday night saying, “It’s always the Black and brown students or it’s always a school in the underserved area.”
“We can’t keep doing that,” he continued.
Kim Flowers picks up her four grandkids from Just Elementary every day.
She says she’s concerned, unsure how her peers will be able to pick up their children if they don’t have transportation.
“Kids get sick, how are they going to get them?” she asked. “Kids get in trouble, how are they going to get their kids, they won’t.”
“They won’t be able to,” she added.
Brittney Smith disagrees, saying she’s pulling her 6-year-old son Darrell from Just Elementary either way.
“I feel the teaching is not as well as it should be,” Smith explained. “He isn’t getting enough homework.”
The closure is not a done deal just yet.
The school board will meet again on May 9 for a second reading of the proposal and a final vote.