By Brian Bokor
The Hillsborough County School Board has submitted plans to add a new 20,000-square-foot building at the site of Collins Elementary along with a new 20,000-square-foot gymnasium, converting the school from an elementary-only school to a prekindergarten through eighth-grade facility.
The expansion will also include additions to the music, dining and media centers as well as a new track and field area and play court area in order to accommodate the influx of new students. Plans call for the new school with the track and playfields to be open by August 2023.
Additionally, the request includes the addition of a shared park and recreational facilities, including a new 15,000-square-foot community center along with playground and basketball courts on the northern parcel to be open to the public.
The site is located in Riverview on the northeast corner of Panther Trace Blvd. and Summerfield Blvd. The southern parcel is owned by the school board (Collins Elementary School), with the currently vacant northern parcel owned by Hillsborough County.
Amber Dickenson, general manager of Growth Management for Hillsborough County Public Schools, explained, “The county property was helpful in this case to build a track that we would have not had the area to construct.”
With school capacity a pressing issue in South County, I asked if expansion at other school sites is currently being explored.
“Yes, expansions are frequently constructed; most recent examples are Wimauma Elementary and Spoto High School,” said Dickenson. “This is what we are doing at Collins and have been doing at many schools. However, the amount of capacity that one can add to an existing school site is limited. The school capacity required to serve the already approved residential growth in South County will exceed what we can add to existing sites. Therefore, we must be able to build new schools in the south to properly serve this area.”
According to transportation studies required for the project, “a signal is not recommended at this time. The intersection of Panther Trace Blvd. and Summerfield Blvd. does not satisfy any of the applicable warrants for signalization. The school currently utilizes crossing guards during the school hours that have worked effectively.”
The current school has an enrollment of 1,002 elementary students with the proposed expansion allowing up to 1,031 elementary students and 535 middle students for a total of 1,566. It is expected that both schools will operate on the elementary school bell schedule, which is 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m.
General access for the school is proposed to remain unchanged with teacher parking and bus pickup/drop-off via Panther Trace Blvd. and parent pickup/drop-off via Summerfield Blvd.; however, the configuration will be modified to accommodate the additional traffic.
To learn more, visit www.hillsboroughschools.org.