Colleen Bianucci posted on Facebook this photo of parents and students at a school board meeting in April, in support of the Apollo Beach K-8 initiative.

Hillsborough School Board members have agreed to turn Apollo Beach Elementary into a school for kindergarten through grade eight, starting with the addition of grade six for the 2024-25 school year.

The school board voted in May to allow for the addition of grade seven in school year 2026-27, and grade eight a year after that, making complete the answer to a community push for a K-8 school at 501 Apollo Beach Blvd.

According to school officials, approximately five modular classrooms will be added to the Apollo Beach Elementary school site for the new school year, at a cost of about $220,000. There will be no boundary changes and seats will be available through choice, with an additional window for middle school enrollment offered to students assigned to Apollo Beach for the elementary grades. Enrollment will be capped at 100 students for each new grade level.

The K-8 initiative reportedly was the choice of parents who send their children to the school, which opened in 1982, in a community that over the past decade has seen rapid growth, with more to come.

At a December board meeting, Colleen Bianucci presented herself as a chair of the community’s Apollo Beach K-8 initiative. She reported that more than 1,700 signatures had been obtained in favor of the K-8 proposal. Also, Bianucci reported that organizers had polled more than 200 former Apollo Beach families to determine if they would opt to resend their children to the elementary school if it offered the additional grades. According to Bianucci, “the overwhelming majority said ‘yes,’ and those who said ‘no’ said no because their children are entering eighth or ninth grade.”

Fast-forward to the May 7 meeting, before the vote that secured Apollo Beach’s new direction, where Bianucci again spoke in favor of the community push for additional grades. With new neighborhoods, roads and shopping centers, “our community is bursting at the seams,” she said, and yet “we haven’t had a middle school open in more than 20 years.”

Even with what she called charter school encroachment, overcrowding persists, Bianucci said, and moreover the school district is losing full-time equivalent (FTE) state dollars that follow a student from public school to their school of choice. Better to invest in “a proven successful school,” Bianucci added, which in turn she said will solve a splintering problem for Apollo Beach and a growing problem for the district.

According to community organizers, parents have been “jumping ship for charters, home schools or private schools,” Bianucci said, because they want to secure a spot for middle school enrollment. In deciding middle school seat selections, private and charter schools typically give preference to students who already are in their schools or have siblings in attendance.

The K-8 issue for Apollo Beach opened a spirited dialogue among school board members, including Patti Rendon, the sole vote against the measure. She said that with “thousands of homes being built,” she would like to see a broader plan that addresses academic and overcrowding needs throughout the district.

According to school officials, no additional units for AP, guidance and other positions will be afforded at Apollo Beach K-8 until school year 2025-26. Sport options will be fully considered in year three, after all middle school grades have been added. Students will have the option of playing with their assigned middle school if the sport they desire cannot be filled otherwise. Transportation routes were to be reviewed before setting the school bell schedule.

For more information, visit Hillsborough County School Choice at

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