Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Education

Parents vent at school district meeting over fate of Lee Elementary School

TAMPA — Leaders of the Hillsborough County School District tried Thursday to reassure parents they are doing their best for the displaced students of Lee Elementary School, who lost their school in a September fire.

To some, it was a hard sell.

"I’m really, really disappointed in the horrible lack of communication," parent Taryn Sabia told district chief operating officer Chris Farkas.

As the district waits to hear from its insurance adjuster, Sabia said, loitering and deterioration are taking place at the historic building: "And the longer the building sits without remediation, the more deterioration there is."

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: LEE ELEMENTARY FIRE

As Confederate monuments fall, Tampa’s Robert E. Lee Elementary could get name change (June 14)

Flames consume Robert E. Lee Elementary in Tampa Heights (w/video) (Sept. 13)

Lee Elementary, rich with history and contradictions, will move to another school (Sept. 13)

Fire Marshal: Lee Elementary fire was accidental and electrical, with storm damage a contributing factor (Oct. 4)

Media relations chief Grayson Kamm apologized for the lack of communication after Farkas told them there is nothing to communicate. The district does not yet have any estimates to repair and reopen the school.

"I’m not here to feed you a line because there isn’t a number," Farkas said.

Although the school is named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, supporters refer to it as "Lee," or "Lee Elementary Magnet School of World Studies & Technology."

The district was in the beginning stages of a survey about whether to change the name when, in the final hours of Hurricane Irma, Lee caught fire on Sept. 12.

The fire marshal determined high winds and rain from Irma probably whipped electrical wires in the attic. When power was restored after 48 hours of darkness, a surge likely ignited the fire. The building at 305 E Columbus Dr. had no sprinklers.

"This was an incredible trauma for everybody," said parent Barry Shalinsky. "Personally, I cried every day for a month, and I’m sure that I’m not alone."

The district moved all of the teachers and students from the small school into nearby Lockhart Elementary. Since then, it’s been a matter of running two different schools in one building.

While appreciative of support from the community, Shalinsky said, "the provision of things, of paper, of pens, globes and books, that doesn’t do it."

Grief counselors did not spend enough time at Lockhart, he said. Children, parents and teachers are still troubled by the sight of the burned out building.

Other speakers said sharing a campus has been difficult, as each school has its own culture. Making matters worse, Lee’s guidance counselor has missed much of the school year because of health issues and the nurse has had to work at another school.

"We need to have somebody on campus to deal with these issues, these mental health issues," PTA president Jomil Frick said.

District Chief of Schools Harrison Peters said he was not immediately aware of these and other staffing issues. Then he, too, apologized: "I understand that you’re hurting because we’re hurting as well."

No decision has been made yet about the Lee building. It might be torn down and rebuilt completely, or the original building might be preserved. Either way, Farkas said, "we’re going to be rebuilding a majority of that school."

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments

Five Hernando County educators nominated for LifeChanger of the Year Awards

Hernando County Public Schools has five educators in the running for prizes ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 in the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year awards. The program will give out 17 awards.Travis Bruns and Doug Poteet of Pine Grove Elemen...
Updated: 3 hours ago
More teacher protests and another charter school approval expected at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting

More teacher protests and another charter school approval expected at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting

TAMPA — This will seem familiar: Teachers are mobilizing to protest outside Tuesday’s Hillsborough County School Board meeting about their frozen pay rates.And this too: A vote is expected on a new charter school.Florida Connections Academy is a virt...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Romano: Once again, state education leaders fail this simple test

Want to annoy an education leader in Florida?Tell them they’ve turned your child’s school into an assembly line of tiny test takers. Tell them innovation and imagination and excitement are rapidly disappearing in favor of teaching to the test.And whe...
Published: 01/23/18
Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas to look at high school start times today

Pinellas County school district officials have spent weeks analyzing bus routes and brainstorming ideas to see if later high school start times could be a reality this August.Today will tell how far they have come.Clint Herbic, associate superintende...
Published: 01/23/18

Class Notes for Jan. 26

Theatre/Art/MusicCenter for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7382.• The center’s Learn it Live! series presents The Three Little Pigs, at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24- 25. Pre-K – grade 4. Public show at 11 a.m. Jan. ...
Published: 01/23/18
USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

USF leaders move to calm fears over consolidation plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Holding a piece of computer paper and a microphone, the leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg began a Friday afternoon forum by repeating the USF administration’s new mantra.He reassured the crowd before him that t...
Published: 01/19/18

Crews Lake thespians overcome the odds

SPRING HILL — It’s 8:30 a.m. — "homeroom" period in school speak — when kids in the Crews Lake Middle School drama club file into an empty chorus room to begin rehearsing under the direction of language arts teacher Kristen Sykora. There’s only 25 m...
Published: 01/19/18
Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

Cuts hit top school leaders as Hillsborough sheds three six-figure salaries

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Friday announced the first in a series of belt-tightening moves that include the elimination of three six-figure positions.Jobs now held by Wynne Tye and Larry Sykes will no longer exis...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

Tampa Bay schools warn parents about flu activity, dangers

The Florida Department of Health has reported a sharp increase in flu activity in the last several weeks, prompting area schools to send out letters warning parents about the virus. At least two districts, however, say that flu activity in their scho...
Published: 01/19/18

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18