Historic Lee Elementary in Tampa to be rebuilt following fire

Fourteen months after Lee Elementary Magnet School in Tampa was engulfed in flames, likely sparked by an electrical surge following Hurricane Irma, the historic school in Hillsborough County is set to be rebuilt. 

The Hillsborough County School Board voted unanimously this month to rebuild the century-old magnet school, which emphasizes curriculum in technology and world studies. 

Although elementary school construction usually takes between 12 and 18 months, the architects and engineers working on the project anticipate potential delays as a result of the building’s unique condition. Lee’s historic brick exterior will be preserved, while its interior will be renovated in a more modern style. 

Lee Elementary was partially destroyed in a fire on September 12, 2017. Winds from Hurricane Irma damaged part of the building’s roof, while heavy rain caused water damage within. The fire marshal thinks an electrical surge sparked the fire once power was restored to the neighborhood. Since January, Lee Elementary students and staff have been using modular classrooms on part of the Lockhart Elementary campus.

The district’s insurance company will fully fund the rebuild, which will be overseen by construction manager JE Dunn Construction, a national company with offices in Tampa, and design professional Fleischman Garcia and Planners out of Sarasota. The cost to rebuild is expected to exceed $10 million.

Named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the school’s name has been the subject of controversy and changes since it was constructed in 1906. During the school's rebuild, the School Board may take the opportunity to rename it.

“Board Member Tamara Shamburger started our district’s process in 2017 to consider renaming the school,” a Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesperson said. “There will be a public process in the future to submit names and then the School Board will ultimately decide what the name will be.”

In the meantime, the Hillsborough Education Foundation is collecting donations for school supplies and other classroom needs through the Lee Elementary School Relief Fund. Find out more information and how you can donate by following this link to the Relief Fund
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Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives.