Destroyed by fire in 2017, Lee Elementary School in Tampa, Fla., has been renamed Tampa Heights Elementary.

Fire destroys Tampa elementary school

Sept. 14, 2017
The century-old Lee Elementary School was closed because of Hurricane Irma.

Already missing classes because of Hurricane Irma, students at a 111-year--old elementary school in Tampa, Fla., watched as the building destroyed by fire.

The Tampa Tribune reports that that the fire at Lee Elementary School on Tuesday evening did not appear suspicious.

Officials are investigating reports that the fire in the three-story brick building may have started when power was temporarily restored there after Hurricane Irma.

It appears the school will be a total loss. According to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser website, the value of the building is $2.7 million. Losses, including the contents inside, were estimated Wednesday at $4.9 million.

The Hillsborough County school district has insurance on its school buildings and is reviewing its policy, Superintendent Jeff Eakins says.

The district says the displaced students will be housed at Lockhart Elementary, a school about a mile and a half away, The Tampa Bay Times reports. The school has about 330 students and 49 staffers. In addition, Eakins has authorized an emergency supplement of $1,000 for every full-time staff member at Lee so they can replenish the supplies and personal items that they lost.

Officials emphasized there are no indications the name of the school — Lee Elementary, shortened from Robert E. Lee Elementary — had anything to do with the fire.

The school board has taken the first steps toward changing the name of the school, built in 1906. It was called Michigan Avenue Grammar School then, but renamed for the Confederacy's most famous general in 1943.

It became the Hillsborough' district's first magnet school in 1993 with a focus on technology. The world studies program was added in 2008. Since then, the full name of the school has been Lee Elementary Magnet School of World Studies and Technology.

District leaders, as part of an 18-month process, were designing a system to gather community input on whether the school's name should be changed.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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