Students, staff saddened by building destroyed in middle school fire

Hillsborough County

BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – Students and staff at a local middle school are dealing with the emotions of seeing part of their school go up in flames following a possible lightning strike over the weekend.

Monday, school district members and administrators got a look at the damage of the building that once housed close to 200 7th graders.

“It’s heartbreaking. You’re getting ready to start the school year and you get that call that says your school is on fire and you’re really not ready for that.”

Principal Dina Langston is making the tough decision after a building on her campus went up in flames Friday night. All that’s left is the charred remains of the brick building built in 1914. Inside, water and smoke damage have left classrooms unusable.

“We know that the building, the contents and everything inside is a total loss, but we don’t know yet what will be done with the building,” says Ranya Arja with the Hillsborough County School District.

Engineers walked the grounds with the principal asking a variety of questions.

“Was anything else impacted besides just the building that would disrupt or cause us to not use other classrooms,” says Langston.

No plan is in place yet, but school officials think they’ll be able to absorb the 7th graders into other parts of campus.

“Until you know whether that impacts 8 classrooms or 22 classrooms, that really changes things,” says Langston.

For now, Principal Langston is choosing to use this as a positive learning experience.

“I believe in our kids, and in our faculty, and in our district. They were right here by since I got the call that night. I feel like we’re going to be ok,” says Langston.

Fire officials hope to have answers as to what caused the fire in about a week. Lightning is the main suspect from storms Friday night.

With school starting in 3 weeks teachers were preparing to see students.

“They had just finished their rooms; school classroom libraries. We had just moved everything. So there were three teachers that were all functionally all in, ready to go,” says Langston.

Hillsborough County School District is already pledging one thousand dollar stipends for the 7 teachers affected.

“We want to make sure that they have that caring, learning environment when school starts on the first day,” says Arja.

Teachers and administrators at other schools want to help. Parents are organizing donation drives. Anything they can do for the teachers and the students.

“I know our faculty has already rallied together to talk about, we’re Viking strong, we always pull together as a family, we’ve got this and that we would help each other,” says Langston.

Principal Langston is asking for a hold on any donations that may be coming or organized. She wants to look at what was lost and what they really need before the call for help goes out.

Teachers are set to report back here on August 2nd.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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