TAMPA, Fla.— Experts started a search this week for any signs of a possible cemetery on the grounds of a local school.
Hillsborough County Schools says last week, they were notified of information indicated a possible cemetery for indigent citizens on the campus of King High School.
“It’s a human issue,” said Ray Reed. “We treated a whole lot of people like a landfill and that is unconscionable, inexcusable and must be made right.”
He brought records to the attention of the school board chair, a discovery he made during his thousands of hours of research into cemeteries in the area.
“I was hoping they’d take it seriously and look into it. I had no idea they’d react so quickly and I have to say, I am thrilled,” Reed said.
The district hired the geotechnical firm, GeoView Inc., after preliminary research.
“This is not a minor league effort,” said the St. Petersburg-based company’s president, Mike Wightman.
On Wednesday, technicians started conducting a survey on the south end of campus using ground penetrating radar to look for any signs that people are or were buried there.
“What we won’t be able to say is whether it’s an actual grave itself. that’s when you bring in the archaeologists they do the excavation work and they’re looking for those physical remains. So what we’ll do is we’ll provide an image,” Wightman said.
It allows them to search several feet below ground and determine if there are objects. Data collection could take three days.
“The other thing we can image is any excavations that have been put into the soil,” he said.
Meanwhile, the school district said it’s working with officials and a historian to review documents. It said on Tuesday, they found a city resolution from 1937 detailing when the city planned to use the land for a cemetery. Information in records has been conflicting.
“It’s still important if this is where it’s at, that our district is doing everything possible not to let this be something that is erased and make right by it,” said Corries Culpepper, the director of safety and risk management for the school district, said.
The district has created a timeline dating back to February 1933, when it said records show the city of Tampa to direct engineers to lay out land for a pauper’s cemetery. The district bought the land from a company in the 1960s. The timeline dates into the 1950s through the 1980s.
The school district said if nothing is found on the south end of the property, it may move its efforts to another section of the campus.