NewsPinellas County


Newest Palm Harbor elementary school named in honor of child killed four decades ago

Elisa Nelson
Posted at 7:21 PM, Mar 26, 2019

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A Palm Harbor neighborhood is celebrating the legacy of a 10-year-old girl they lost four decades ago.

Elisa Nelson was kidnapped in 1980 while riding her bicycle to school.

Pinellas County School Board members voted unanimously to name a new elementary school in her honor.

“You did it.”

The decision was a victory for classmates, family, everyone who loved Elisa.

“Our parents didn’t talk about it. I remember my Mother saying I’m sorry,” said classmate Janine Rago.

Forty years ago, it was a tragedy.

“If you lived in Palm Harbor in 1980, you know exactly where you were in November 4th,” said Elisa's brother Jeff Nelson. “I had come out to the bike rack and her bike wasn’t there."

Jeff’s little sister was murdered after being kidnapped.

“They were concerned about the idea of naming a school after a child who was murdered,” said classmate Donna Donati-Waddell.

“All of her classmates were pretty much left to go to school the next day, look at an empty desk, and then pretend it didn’t happen,” said brother Jeff Nelson.

The quiet despair of November 4, 1980, is now giving Palm Harbor hope.

“It won’t be the bad," said Sago. "It’ll be all the good now and now I’ll be happy to drive down 15th Street."

Palm Harbor’s newest elementary school will be named after Nelson opening this year with a literacy academy. She loved books, reading and helping other children learn.

“I think so many people have felt helpless for so long that they couldn’t do anything for her, and now they can,” said Jeff.

Elisa Nelson Elementary School is being built in the same location where the child once attended class.

A win comforting those who loved her after a loss lasting a lifetime.

“I’ll have the biggest smile on my face when I pull into that school. I’m going to sign up for the PTA,” said Sago.