The brief respite from surging student enrollment is officially over for school districts across Florida.
Kids by the thousands are pouring in, with no end in sight. Jobs are returning in several sectors, along with housing starts, particularly in the suburbs.
Analysts project statewide enrollment will grow from 2.77 million children this year to 2.9 million five years from now. That increase will hit some counties harder than others.
Hillsborough and Pasco County schools, for instance, anticipate increases of around 8 percent over that period — that’s above the state rate — while Pinellas and Hernando expect almost no growth at all.
The boom has caused a scramble for more classroom space that has many leaders struggling to keep up. Money, space and time pose the most common concerns.
“You do the best you can, being creative,” said Lorraine Duffy-Suarez, chief planner for Hillsborough schools.
For instance, Hillsborough has begun expanding high schools because adding large classroom wings costs much less than buying land and building a new campus. But that strategy also results in school sizes that officials in the past have tried to avoid.