Tampa Heights Elementary school set to re-open following 2017 electrical fire

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It is a lesson on bouncing back and facing adversity head on.

8 On Your Side got an inside look at the brand new Tampa Heights Elementary School on Monday. The school, located along East Columbus Drive, was ravaged by fire in 2017.

Not a lot could be saved after the fire, just days after Hurricane Irma rolled through Tampa.

Some bricks, tile, and pieces of flooring were salvaged and now those small items are being used to help bring the new school to life this year.

“We’ve really been working very hard to preserve some of the history, while at the same time, we’re going to start some new traditions,” said Wendy Harrison, the school’s principal.

Those new traditions will begin next month after three years of being away. Students and staff learned from portables set up outside another elementary school in Tampa.

Harrison explained to 8 On Your Side that 325 kids and 55 staff members will return on January 4, 2021.

Some staffers already got a sneak peek.

“Words cannot explain how it was. But now, we open the building to the new staff and they came, and we had teachers dancing on the steps, we had teachers hugging on the wall,” Harrison said.

Workers spent more than a-year-and-a-half on construction.

“To see when these faculty walking in, to see the expression on their face when they first walk in, and realize what they had and what the district provided for them, it’s prideful and heartwarming for me,” said John Shea, the project’s senior superintendent from JE Dunn Construction.

School district leaders said the construction cost $26 million, and to them, it was well worth it.

“You just walk through the front doors. You feel enthusiasm. You feel rich history,” said Addison Davis, superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools.

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