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Westchase Elementary Assists Local School Community Struck by Fire

In the shocking aftermath of the fire that burned Lee Elementary Magnet School of World Studies and Technology to the ground, Westchase Elementary jumped into action.

Teachers, administrators and parents at Westchase Elementary initiated a supply and food drive to help families and teachers at Lee, a Title I school.

Lee Elementary caught fire sometime Tuesday night after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa. Located in the Tampa Heights neighborhood, the school lost power during the storm. The fire started shortly after the neighborhood regained electrical power. No one was in the building at the time. Students from the school were relocated to nearby Lockhart Elementary Magnet and Young Middle Magnet Schools when classes resumed for the district on Monday, Sept. 18.

“All the teachers here knew we had to do something,” said Westchase Elementary Assistant Principal Elise Suarez. “Someone suggested that we do a school supply drive and then I suggested we also collect snacks and water so the teachers setting up their new classrooms would have something to eat and drink while they were putting their new classrooms together.”

Within hours of the drive’s start, they had collected enough food, school supplies and books to fill eight SUVs. “We had so many families who donated items,” said Suarez. “We took them to the school and we were the first ones to deliver anything to them. They were elated and so excited to get it all and were in awe of the outpouring of support.”

Suarez said that while the immediate need for supplies has been met, Westchase Elementary will have a bin in the front office for people to donate school supplies throughout the year.

The Hillsborough Education Foundation has established a fund to help students at Lee Elementary. According to the site, tax-deductible donations will go toward the replenishment of books, supplies and other essential items needed for the 329 students and 25 teachers impacted by the fire. A list of specific supplies still needed can be found at

By Marcy Sanford


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