TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the oldest and most historic elementary schools in the Tampa Bay area is finally set to reopen in January 2021 to students, three years after a devastating fire.
In September of 2017, a storm from Hurricane Irma tore the roof off the historic Robert E. Lee Elementary School, causing rain to get inside the structure. We’re told when power was restored, it started an electrical fire, causing the school to burn down. No one was hurt and the fire was not deemed suspicious.
Soon, a $20 million project was underway to restore the historic elementary school. The school was later renamed Tampa Heights Elementary School.
Construction crews were able to preserve many elements of the original historic building while adding many modern elements.
Some of the historic elements include a new wall panel, created from the original wood floors. Crews were able to re-varnish and preserve the wood panels.
"It kind of gives brings goosebumps to you when you think about that this is truly history," said Wendy Harrison, principal of Tampa Heights Elementary School. "That's just on the wall."
Teachers and students can expect modern elements as well, including brand-new courtyards and outdoor seating areas. They'll also see a new stage, kitchens, classrooms, and more.
The school also had a major security update that now includes only one entrance and exit.
In total, the construction firm with JE Dunn, said they were able to save 51,000 of the original bricks.
Students have been learning in portables at Lockhart Elementary School for the past three years. Those learning in-person will return to the newly-renovated school on January 4, 2021.