TAMPA, Fla. — The bricks remain, but that is all that’s left of Lee Elementary.
“Almost like that feeling, my house is on fire, I need to go save it. That first instinct, I need to go do something. But there was nothing that could be done," said Samantha Levine, a 2nd-grade teacher at Tampa Heights Elementary.
Levine has been teaching at the school for eight years and watched live streams of the devastation the night it burned.
Now only the bricks remain -- even the name has been changed to Tampa Heights Elementary. Witnessing the physical change was a lot to take in for the students who live in the surrounding area.
“It becomes a second home, especially when you’re teaching students who come to you for the consistency in Title 1 schools. That classroom really becomes a safe haven for so many students," Levine said. “They watched their school burn.
"This was not just watching a school catch fire. This was watching a safe space that these kids grew up in catch fire.”
Since the fire, students and teachers moved have been moved around multiple times. Teachers now are working out of trailer-like classrooms on Lockhart Elementary’s campus.
“When you think about it, yes, when you change grade levels, when you change schools, they’ll have to put together a new classroom. We’re now putting together out third classroom in less than a year, when all of us had to move out here,” Levine said.
Construction crews are working on demolition right now to get the school ready for the fall 2020. And although that will mean moving her classroom for the 4th time, Levine could not be more excited for this final change.
“I’m so invested that it’s going to be a returning. That’s how we phrase it here. We say we want to go home. We don’t say we want to go back to our school. We want to go back to our home," she said.
The original brick structure of the school will remain because it dates back to 1906 when the school was built. This does add more time to the project for construction, but it was important to the community this school serves.
“The community is saying this is worth saving, this is worth fighting for,” Levine said.
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