TAMPA - A charter high school in Lutz has closed, ending a controversy over land it planned to develop for a new school building.
Gates Senior High School announced the closure Friday on its Facebook page and website.
"We are going to have to close the High School for the upcoming school year, which will cause the charter to be cancelled by Hillsborough County," John Leaver, chairman of the Gates Senior High School board of directors, wrote in a Facebook message to parents and students.
The school, at 15316 N. Florida Ave., has students from seventh to 11th grades and has been open for a year, said Steve Hegarty, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County school district.
The closure affects students who were entering its ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade programs. The high school had about 84 students during the 2012-13 school year, Hegarty said.
Students in the seventh- and eighth-grade programs won't be affected and will continue to attend school at the Florida Avenue campus.
The school notified the school district last week it would be closing, Hegarty said. He said the decision was made by the school, not the school district.
Since learning of the planned closure, the district has reached out to affected families, Hegarty said. The high school's students can still apply for the school district's school choice program or attend their neighborhood school. They also can apply to another charter school, Hegarty said.
The high school is a part of the Learning Gate Community School, an elementary school that was founded in 2000 and is at 16215 Hanna Road. That school remains open. Its mission is to teach about the environment and use the environment as a tool to educate students.
"The failure to prepare for another property and lack of planning on behalf of the boards has put the schools in a position where there was not enough space to house the two schools without some modification," Leaver said on Facebook.
The Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission held a meeting this year on Gates Senior High School's plan to build a school on a wooded 62-acre site east of U.S. 41 and north of Sunset Lane. EPC officials at the meeting focused on 22 acres of wetlands that would be affected by the planned U.S. 41 access road and bridge.
Numerous opponents at the meeting complained that the school would create gridlock on Sunset Lane, reduce property values, increase pollution, exacerbate flooding and threaten wildlife and groundwater.