TAMPA HEIGHTS — When it reopens in the fall of 2020, Tampa Heights Elementary Magnet School could boast "learning corridors" with reading nooks and writable surfaces, a community garden, and new play areas.
It's likely also to have a new three-story addition that would house classrooms and administrative offices. Parents, teachers, and students last week got a glimpse at an architect's renderings for the building as the renovation process moves into the design phase.
An electrical fire in September 2017 gutted what was then called Lee Elementary School, and was built by volunteers in 2006. Its students now attend classes at nearby Lockhart Elementary.
After the Hillsborough County School District's insurer agreed to pay for the full cost of rebuilding, the School Board voted to change the schools name.
The renovations offer the district a chance to add technological upgrades, including smart science labs, while restoring the school's facade. When completed, the building will be able to accommodate nearly 400 students.
Kristal Hunter said her son Aiden Durrett, 7, is "adjusting" to his new normal at Lockhart.
But the second-grader is anxious to return to Tampa Heights — and the plans unveiled at the meeting added to the excitement, she said.
"I think it's going to be great," she said. "It'll be nice to have a new upgraded school."
Hunter said she is concerned that Tampa Height's world studies theme could change with the cosmetic upgrades.
Another parent, Tracey Dailey, also expressed fears that some of the proposals could "change the heart of the school."
"It was an old school," she said. "You just had that lovely homey feeling and we don't want to lose that."
While no decision has been made regarding the school's theme or other characteristics, Tamara Shamburger, who led the charge among board members to rename the school, said keeping parents and community stakeholders "involved in every step of the process is critical for me."
Shamburger said the district will vet all options for the school, and that the goal is to make the renovated school modern and innovative.
"We want it to be the absolute best," she said. "I want it to be the gem of the neighborhood."
The district expects to have additional updates on the Tampa Heights Elementary Magnet Rebuild Project at a site that should be up and running on Dec. 21. Visit sdhc.k12.fl.us/tampaheights.
Contact Kenya Woodard at email@example.com.