TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Tampa Heights Elementary School community got its first look Thursday at what their school will look like after its rebuilt and re-opened.
The Hillsborough County Schools district unveiled the first computer renderings of the school, which is scheduled to be constructed by November 2020. Architects plan to restore the exterior brick facade while reconstructing and new interior.
"I'm super excited about this opportunity to have new facilities for our kids," said Principal Beverly Smith. "I think they deserve it. I think by preserving what we have in the historical district of Tampa Heights, is something significant in itself."
Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, a fire consumed and destroyed most of, what was then known as Lee Elementary School.
Parents and faculty at the school weren't sure if the school would ever be rebuilt.
"The day we were standing outside of the building right after it first burned, we were just all -- we knew we saw it, but it was hard to just accept," said Daryl Jean Baptiste, whose daughter is a student at Tampa Heights.
Children had a very difficult time dealing with the loss of their school.
"[My daughter] was devastated," said Jean Baptiste. "She didn't really know how to handle it, so I think her being able to go back into that building and see that things do happen that are unfortunate but we have the opportunity to kind of see something new come up."
"Their whole world was upended so it was a really devastating loss for the community," added Crystal Johnson, who has two children attending the school. "Every loss has a flip-side and the flip-side was it really did gel together the community."
Architects working on the project admit rebuilding the school isn't the easiest task.
"Keeping the existing walls intact is very challenging," said Marcel Maslowski, with Fleischman Garcia Architecture. "Everything inside will be a mix of modern and traditional design, so it's going to be very vibrant with energy."
Maslowski said crews will begin working on the building in June, with hopes of moving up the expected completion date.