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School District Releases Findings from Scans On King High School Property

November 20, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tanya Arja
Office of Communications
813-272-4060

Tampa, Fla. – (November 20, 2019) – Based on evidence from underground scans, leaders from Hillsborough County Public Schools announced today they believe the historic Ridgewood Cemetery has been located on the campus of King High School.

Last month, our district received information from a citizen about a possible cemetery on the property of King High School. Within days, our district hired a team of geophysical technicians from GeoView to begin mapping and scanning two areas on the campus.

The first area that was scanned is on the southern edge of the King High School campus. This is the area where the technicians found clear evidence of burials. Ground-penetrating radar found approximately 145 coffins, buried 3 to 5 feet deep.

The radar, by itself, cannot tell exactly what is under the surface. However, the pattern of the findings matches with historical records of a one-acre cemetery on the site.

Hillsborough County Public Schools remains committed to respecting the individuals who are buried there, and their families.

This entire area has been fenced off since last month, when the citizen first alerted us about the possible cemetery. In that area there are agricultural lab facilities and one building – an agricultural workshop built in the late 1970’s. We are now making plans to remove that building.

GeoView also performed a thorough scan of a second area of interest, on the northeast corner of the campus. They found no evidence of any burials at all in that area.

Historical records vary, but they show between 250 and 268 burials at Ridgewood Cemetery. Our scans show evidence of approximately 145 burials. Every record we have found indicates all the burials were done in the same small area – taking up about one acre.

There are some possible reasons for the discrepancy of numbers.

  • Many of the people—possibly as many as 77—buried in the cemetery were infants or small children. Their smaller coffins would be difficult to locate by scanning, especially after this much time has passed.
  • Some coffins containing adult burials may have decayed underground, to the point where they cannot be detected 75 years later.
  • Some remains may be located below the agricultural workshop.
  • Some of the individuals may have been moved to another cemetery.
  • Radar technology is good, but not perfect—anomalies in the ground may affect what it can see.

Hillsborough Schools is delivering these findings to the county Medical Examiner and State Archaeologist today—as outlined in Florida law. We expect they will take the next 30 days to review this report. They can then keep possession of the land or decide to turn the land back over to the school district.

If the land is turned back over to Hillsborough County Public Schools, our leaders will work with members of the Historical Response Committee to discuss proper ways to memorialize the individuals, how to best care for the space and learning opportunities for students at King High School and other schools.

You can download the report and images from the report at this link: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjMl2DqAimg9gaxoMHgfQ7L6OutW2w?e=nEx4RN

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