titlemiddle.gif (6262 bytes)titlebar.jpg (3165 bytes)

April 30, 2002 - Belleville News Democrat

New school likely to open this year despite damage

tornadoBND1.jpg (22182 bytes)
                                                  Special to the News Democrat
The interior of Whiteside Middle School suffered damage.

By Jaime Ingle  jingle@bnd.com

   Despite a tornado that damaged part of the eighth-grade wing and portions of the roof at the new Whiteside Middle School late Saurday, construction cres are working to make repairs so the school can open as scheduled this fall.

   "We're trying on our end, and there's a real good possibility it will still happen," said project superintendent Steve Oswald of SM Wilson & Co. in St. Louis.

   Wilson said the goal is to have students and teachers using the sixth- and seventh-grade wings when the new school year begins in August while crews repair the eighth-grade wing.

   Whiteside Superintendent Karen Meng said she does not yet know the cost of the damage or the extent of structural damage.

   "The structural engineers will have a better idea late in the week," she said.

   Meng said representatives from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency were coming to look at the damage Monday.  The building is insured.

   Meng said the staff had planned to begin moving furniture and supplies into the $10.6 million new school for students in grades six through eight beginning May 15.

tornadoBND2.jpg (26520 bytes)
                                                            DERIK HOLTMANN/News Democrat
Workers began removing the top layer of the roof that was damaged by the tornado.

   Meng said the strong winds ripped two of the new school's heating and air-conditioning units, each weighing 1,000 to 2,000 pounds from the roof.  The wind's force then repeatedly bounced the units across sections of the roof, creating some holes that allowed rain to seep into the building.

   The gymnasium floor had not been installed and crews have been able to provide temporary patching for the roof in case of rain later this week, Oswald said.

   Leesa Lewis, project manager for SM Wilson, said winds tore and twistd sheet metal off a corner of the eighth-grade wind.  She said winds from the storm also lifted and misaligned part of a brick wall, leaving behind a deep crack.   But Lewis said work will continue as scheduled in the sixth- and seventh- grade wings that weren't damaged.

   Meng said she's also grateful the school's architect, Art Hayhurst, rushed to the school Saturday to turn off the gas, and likely prevented worse damage.  "He's our hero.  He lives close to the building and was also dealing with storm damage to his own home," Meng said.

   She said the strong winds ripped the skirting from one of the classroom trailers at the current school on Lebanon Avenue, but caused no other damage.  She said classes continued as usual on Monday.

   Those who wish to help school families whose homes were damaged by the storm may make contributions to the Whiteside Family Disaster Relief Fund at Union Planters Bank.

   Meng also said the school is accepting nonperishable food items and clothing at the school's entrance off Lebanon  Avenue.

Back to Main Tornado Page