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Tampa Heights Elementary – Finally Home After the Fire

On Jan. 4, 2021, kids across Hillsborough County rose bleary-eyed from their beds. Winter Break was over. It was time to head back to school. However, for the more than 300 students who attend Tampa Heights Elementary Magnet, Jan. 4 couldn’t come soon. For them, it was a whole new beginning as a brand new, state-of-the-art school awaited them!

It’s been a long journey for many of these students and staff who now call Tampa Heights Elementary their home.

In September 2017, a fire caused by Hurricane Irma burned their school to the ground along with everything that was inside. Every book, desk and lesson plan was destroyed. But, as is so often the case, greatness arose from the ashes.

It began almost immediately after the fire. The community came together for the school that lost it all. Donations poured in from across the country. Supplies were replaced and students and teachers were welcomed at other schools. It was a Band-Aid, a temporary fix for which our district is eternally grateful.

That Band-Aid is no longer necessary.

“This is amazing, incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. There are no other words for it,” says Meagan Gallogly, a second-grade teacher at Tampa Heights, after seeing the new school for the first time. “This is home. This is my safe place.”

After the fire, builders and architects worked hard to preserve the historical legacy that is important to the school community while adding modern and innovative elements to enhance student learning. Some design elements of the old school remain intact, such as the brick façade, pitched roof, cupola, floorboards and colorful tiles.

Those special touches didn’t go unnoticed by the students and staff who walked down the red carpet and into the brick building on the first day of school for 2021.

Superintendent Addison Davis was there, greeting students and staff. And in one of the more touching moments from the morning, a little boy, no more than 7 or 8, ran up to the superintendent and threw his arms around Davis’ waist before running inside the school.

That was the vibe of the day: gratitude, love and relief that they are back home.

About the Programming: 

The Tampa Heights Global Leadership Academy prepares students to be global citizens. Daily theme integration of the 7 Wonders of Tampa Heights (Leadership, Environment, Arts, Diversity, Economics, Reflection, Steam) helps students learn about the world and how they can make a difference.

Learn more about Tampa Heights Elementary Magnet here!

Related Stories:

Read the original story about the school fire which was featured as our October 2017 cover story here.

Laura Cross
Laura Cross
Hillsborough County Public Schools.

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