Lee Elementary parents, teachers question district on fate of damaged school

By Saundra Weathers, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 11, 2018, 10:14 PM EST

Four months after a fire destroyed a Hillsborough County elementary school, parents and teachers are asking district leaders if their school will ever be rebuilt.

  • Fire damaged much of Lee Elementary School on Sept. 12, 2017
  • School leaders said there is a plan to rebuild the school
  • Students will report to Lockhart Elementary School for upcoming school year

During a meeting held inside the cafeteria at Lockhart Elementary School, parents of students previously at Lee Elementary School expressed their frustration. About 300 students and 50 faculty and staff members from Lee Elementary transferred to Lockhart right after that fire in September.

The fire devastated the school just two days after Hurricane Irma damaged the historic structure.

Karl Messenger was just one of several parents at the meeting who asked district leaders what’s taking them so long to decide the fate of the burned school.

“It’s amazing what we expected from the hurricane," said parent Karl Messenger. "And then, it didn’t come, and we’re like, 'thank god.' No damage, nothing. A few days later, ok, one school of 200 and something burns down. Well, it’s our school, and it’s a good school and it’s a historic school."

District leaders said they have a plan to rebuild, but right now there isn’t much they can do.

“Right now we’re waiting on that insurance report," said Hillsborough County School Chief Officer of Operations Chris Farkas. "Once we have that, and if we have that and don’t do anything, then that’s on us, but right now some of those things are out of our control."

"I can’t make them go faster than they are," Farkas continued. "The reality is that we told them how important it is and how urgent it is to get that report, and as soon as we get it decisions will be made right after that.”

It’s an answer parents like Tracy Dailey didn’t want to hear.  

“The fact that it’s just sitting there, and they’re allowing it to deteriorate even further,” she said.

While Daily told us she doesn’t have a lot of faith in the process, she is hoping leaders will deliver on their promises.

“In a perfect world we work with them, we have community support, we get our building rebuilt," Dailey said. "We realize it’s going to take some time. We’re all in for that effort, and if that’s the effort you’re going to do, then we’ll be in it for the long haul."

School leaders said students from Lee Elementary School will report to school at Lockhart for the upcoming school year and, if all goes as planned, they will have a new school built or the old one restored the following school year.