Saturday, June 23, 2018

Lee Elementary supporters will take their case to Tampa City Council

Supporters of Lee Elementary School are asking for a turnout Thursday morning at the Tampa City Council meeting.

"As many know, Lee Elementary was extensively damaged by fire and although there has been much recent discussion, there has been little action to physically protect this historically significant structure from further damage and demolition by neglect," said an email from Taryn Sabia, one of the parent leaders.

Sabia said she hopes city officials will take up the cause. She is appealing to "members of the community who are interested in voicing their concern about the profound lack of effort in protecting this historic structure from the elements."

The meeting is 9 a.m., Thursday at Old City Hall, 206 E Jackson St, 3rd floor.

"If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you are encouraged to contact City Council members directly to express your concern and request their assistance in ensuring the longevity of Lee Elementary as a contributing historic structure within our community," Sabia wrote.

The school district is now in the process of performing a damage assessment in response to what it considers a low-ball estimate of about $9 million from its insurance carrier.

Rebuilding Lee to historic standards would cost far more than that, district chief operating officer Chris Farkas said recently. Where a couple of months ago Farkas discussed with Lee parents his hopes about rebuilding or restoring the school, he was less encouraging after he got the first estimate.

Lee's student body of slightly more than 300 and all of its teachers were relocated temporarily to nearby Lockhart Elementary School. That arrangement is in place for the 2018-19 school year as well. But some staff were transferred to other schools, deepening the parents' concern.

Farkas's position all along has been that without all the relevant information, he cannot advise the superintendent and School Board on what to do.

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