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May 5, 2002 - Belleville Journal

Whiteside Middle School begins rebuilding process

New school was
damaged by tornado

By Dan Wiszkon
Staff writer

   A tornado that caused about $1.5 million in damage to the new Whiteside Middle School last weekend shouldn't prevent the building from being completed in time for next school year, according to the project's supervisor.

   Steve Oswald, with contractor SM Wilson Co. in St. Louis, said seven classrooms in the school's eighth-grade wing will be demolished and rebuilt.   The wing, located at the north

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                                                                                             T.L. Witt photo
Construction crews with SM Wilson Co. tear down part of the new Whiteside Middle School on Friday afternoon.  Project superintendent Steve Oswald said the eighth-grade wing of the school, the part hit hardest by the April 27 tornado, should be rebuilt by August 20.
   "These rooms were a total loss," he said.   Oswald said the roof of the 129-foot gymnasium and two air conditioning units also must be replaced.  The tornado peeled off ceiling tiles, caused water damage and left lighting fixtures hanging by wires throughout the building.  Oswald projected construction crews would complete the school by August 20. 

   Whiteside School District No. 115, located between Belleville and Shiloh, serves about 1,100 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.  The new junior high school will serve pupils in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

   Classes now are being conducted in five trailers and three modular buildings because of overcrowding at the main school at 2028 Lebanon Ave.  District voters approved a $3.8 million bond issue for the school in March 2000.  The total cost of the property and school construction is about $10.7 million.

   Superintendent Karen Meng said the staff had planned to start moving into the new junior high school on May 15.  She said the district has a $5,000 deductible from its insurance on the building. 

   The tornado caused minimal damage to the trailers and narrowly missed the main school.  "We feel blessed that we didn't lose both schools," Meng said.  "We're trying to stay positive.  We see our cup as being half full, not half empty."

  The tornado, which struck late Saturday, April 27, registered winds of more than 100 miles per hour.  It caused major damage to 44 homes and buildings and minor damage to another 119, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.  The Villa Madero subdivision between Belleville and Shiloh and the Hincke-Sense Home for Retired Priests, located at 2620 Lebanon Ave., also sustained heavy damage in the storm.

   Chancellor Ken York of the Belleville Diocese said 14 retired priests are being housed elsewhere while the repairs are made.  York said the damage is still be assessed, and the building is covered by insurance.  York said the retired priests are staying at the Meredith Memorial Home in downtown Belleville and a motel at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.  A few of them, who are in need of medical assistance, are staying at the Rosewood Care Center in Swansea.  "We're looking at one to three months," York said of how long it would take to repair the Hincke-Sense building.

   Last Tuesday, gov. George Ryan added St. Clair County to the list of seven counties declared a disaster area because of last weekend's storms.  On Thursday, Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka announced that victims in Franklin and St. Clair Counties are now eligible for low interest Disaster Recovery Loans through the Illinois State Treasurer's Office.

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