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Flames break out at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Tampa

Flames break out at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Tampa”

There were renewed calls from the community earlier this summer to rename the school, which was more than 100 years old.

Crowds gathered for blocks around and watched firefighters try to tamp down the blaze from afar. Its 330 students and 49 staffers haven't been in school this week because all Hillsborough County schools were closed in advance of Hurricane Irma.

A Tampa Heights magnet elementary school at the center of community controversy because it bears the name of Confederate General Robert E. Lee caught fire Tuesday evening.

The fire was reported at 6:46 p.m., and firefighters were on scene five minutes later.

Heavy smoke and flames could be seen pouring from the building.

Tampa Fire Rescue confirms it is a two-alarm fire.

The school was not used as a shelter during Irma, which residents said knocked out power in the surrounding neighborhoods.

"The power had just come on and right away the fire started", said Reginald Preston, who owns a nearby barbershop. The school's enrollment is about 57 percent African-American.

According to the school's website, teachers "use a variety of instructional technology to infuse our authentic world studies theme to create an environment that fosters the highest levels of social, emotional, and intellectual development".

Other witnesses say the school opened in 1904.



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