Metro-East News

Granite City High School students get 25 extra days of summer. Here’s what happened.

Granite City high school flood cleanup underway.

Flood damage caused by a massive rain storm has forced Granite City School District to cancel classes on Thursday, Aug. 15, and Friday, Aug. 16. The first day of school is now scheduled to be Monday, Aug. 19.
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Flood damage caused by a massive rain storm has forced Granite City School District to cancel classes on Thursday, Aug. 15, and Friday, Aug. 16. The first day of school is now scheduled to be Monday, Aug. 19.

Granite City High School students will clock in almost 25 extra days of summer due to problems caused by summer construction projects and flooding.

Granite City Superintendent Jim Greenwald said Thursday the school district would partially open to pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students on Monday. However, high school students aren’t expected to return to school after Labor Day, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the earliest.

Greenwald said the decision came as a result of several arms of the school district agreeing the building needed to be as safe as possible for students and staff.

Over the summer, construction on the second floor of the high school took place to repair a ceiling that had suddenly caved in. However, after the construction was finished no environmental air testing was done in the building. Greenwald said the studies should have been done immediately following the renovation of a classroom.

On Wednesday, Greenwald sent a letter to the district staff asking individuals to see their primary care physicians if they were having any concerns about exposure to the contaminant. Greenwald told the News-Democrat on Thursday the message was purely a precautionary and that scientists testing the air of the building said it would be extremely rare for anyone not “completely immersed” in the contaminants to become ill.

“There is no one that could possibly be in harm’s way if they were in the lower levels of our buildings for summer school, whether they are a teacher or a student or anyone coming in, based upon the work that was being done upstairs,” he said. “You’d have to be in a situation where you were immersed in this stuff.”

Those contaminants, he said, include silica, quartz and other contaminants that come with working with plaster and ceiling tiles. He said asbestos was not a concern at this point.

He added that traffic was restricted from the Grand Avenue Wing of the school, where the construction took place, and that summer school was held on the first floor of the high school.

At this time, the air testing has been completed, by cleanup still will take another week. Greenwald said cleanup of both the first- and second-floor twill take place to ensure safety.

“There’s no major reason for concern,” he said. “What they’re planning on cleaning is both upstairs and downstairs so when we do get the green light it’s as safe as possible.”

School was originally canceled due to rain damage occurred last week when a “freak storm” inundated Granite City beginning on Sunday, Aug. 11, and lasting until the early morning hours of Aug. 12. Streets became rivers, homes were flooded and at Granite City High School the rain-damaged floors, the roof and other areas of the school.

Classes originally were scheduled to begin on Thursday but were delayed through the weekend so cleanup and repairs could be addressed. Greenwald said last Friday that the work was taking “longer than expected” and that the entire district would be closed until Thursday, Aug. 22.

Last week, Greenwald he decided to delay the first day of school earlier this week stemmed from ensuring the safety of students and staff members.

“We did not want kids coming in tomorrow or Friday just for the sake of rushing school to start,” he said. “(They’d be) stepping over hoses and a lot of the dehumidifiers and fans are really noisy.”

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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