School Board Votes to Rebuild Lee Elementary Magnet School
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tanya Arja
Office of Communications
Tampa, Fla. – (October 16, 2018) – At tonight’s School Board meeting, board members unanimously voted to rebuild Lee Elementary Magnet School, a year after a devastating fire tore through the popular magnet school that focuses on technology and world studies.
As previously reported, Hillsborough County Public Schools negotiated full payment from the district’s insurance companies for the rebuild, using the preserved historic exterior of the school. Hillsborough County Public Schools has zero cost to rebuild Lee Elementary Magnet School.
Now, the Construction Manager—JE Dunn Construction—and the Design Professional—Fleischman Garcia & Planners—will work with the insurance companies as the district moves forward. Both the insurers and district leadership will agree on the plans. The insurance companies will then make direct payments to the construction manager and design team, not the district, as the project progresses.
The time for design and construction is typically 12-18 months for an elementary school—but Lee’s unique circumstances may alter that timeframe as architects and engineers design the building to deliver a modern learning environment on the inside with a continued historic spirit on the outside.
The exact cost to the insurers for the rebuilding project will not be determined until final bids are reviewed and plans are approved, however it is expected to be greater than $10 million. According to the insurance companies, if the district chose not to rebuild the school, the district would receive only $6.5 million in cash, and—due to money already expended on bracing the historic façade, creating space for Lee students on the campus of Lockhart Elementary School with portable classrooms, and other efforts—our district would end up with about $4 million if the school was not rebuilt.
The devastating fire on September 12, 2017 engulfed the magnet school shortly after power was restored to the neighborhood when Hurricane Irma swept through the Tampa Bay area. The fire marshal concluded the fire was accidental and caused by an electrical surge. Hurricane force winds tore away part of the school’s roof and persistent rains created water damage inside the building, likely creating the spark that resulted when power was restored.
Fire rescue teams had to pour more than 850,000 gallons of water into the building to extinguish the fire, which was still smoldering more than 12 hours after the blaze. Water damage to the interior was extensive and irreversible. In the days and weeks after the fire, the district took steps to shore up the exterior brick walls, preserving the historic façade.
Students and staff from Lee Elementary have been sharing the campus of Lockhart Elementary ever since the fire. They have been in modular classrooms on the campus since January to create a more cohesive learning environment and to maintain their school identity.
Lee Elementary was built by volunteers in 1906 as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School and was renamed Lee in 1943. It became the district’s first magnet elementary school in 1993.