Robert E. Lee Elementary School gets a new name

Hillsborough County
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It’s official, Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Tampa will now be called Tampa Heights Elementary.

The name change proposal was first brought up in spring of 2017.  

School board member Tamara Shamburger said having an elementary school named after a Confederate commander was a slap in the face.

“It has been a slap in the face to have that school named after him,” said Shamburger.  

“Schools like that were named in this country to really spite black people as a protest against equality in this country.”

Shortly after the discussion began, the school caught fire. The cause later determined to be related to Hurricane Irma. The school district’s insurance carrier is now paying to have the building rebuilt.

The school district reached out to the community asking for suggestions for the new name.  

There were dozens that were submitted, including Mary Ellen Elia Elementary School and a school named after Trayvon Martin.

At a school board meeting on Thursday afternoon, a number of citizens voiced their opinions.  Most were leaning towards naming the school after an area rather than a person.  

Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor were at the top of the list.  

Joseph Robinson thought Tampa Heights made perfect sense.  

“Just calling it ‘Lee’ ain’t gonna do it because everybody knows what that means,” said Robinson.  

“I think Tampa Heights Elementary, simple, shows the area, uncontroversial.”

Chantal Hevia was fighting for V.M. Ybor.  

“It is less than a mile from the original V.M. Ybor Elementary,”  said Hevia.  

“This school from its very beginning bridged two communities, Ybor and West Tampa.”

Shamburger motioned for a vote, which seemed to upset two school board members who thought there needed to be a public forum on the renaming and perhaps more community input.

There was a second on the motion and the measure to rename the school passed 3-2.

Shamburger calls it a victory for the entire community.  

“Just really, really thrilled that this community can finally heal and get this name behind it,” said Shamburger.  

“It has been a stigma, a problem in this community for many, many years. It’s been its name for 75 years and that’s 75 years too long and I’m thrilled that we can move forward and create new history.”

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