A Metro East middle school is forced to make changes after its floor started buckling.
Areas of Wolf Branch Middle School including the gym and cafeteria are closed after it appears the ground underneath is moving.
Wolf Branch School District Superintendent Scott Harres said they noticed a few hairline cracks when the school year started, but over the recent weekend, there’s been a visible difference. In one area, the floor has risen a couple inches.
“Best case scenario we get no more movement, come up with a solution to solve it right away, take care of cosmetic issues and it falls within our insurance and we all live happily ever after. If it does go beyond that we’ll have to look at different ways,” said Harres.
The architectural and engineering firms that built the school spent hours on site over the weekend inspecting the building. The other areas of the school have been deemed safe and the superintendent said they will not hesitate to close other areas of the school if that changes.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now gathering data to figure out what is causing the movement and therefore find a solution to fix it.
“They’ve said look, we need to do a thorough analysis, we need to determine how this is moving, we need to determine at what speed it’s moving or if it’s stopped moving or if anything has changed,” said Harres.
For now, the gym, cafeteria, multi-purpose room, weight room and locker rooms are closed.
Harres said the kitchen is safe, so kids can still be served meals, but they are now eating outside at picnic tables (weather permitting) or inside their larger hallways.
P.E. classes have also been moved outdoors.
If this issue continues into the start of basketball season, the middle school will likely use the next door elementary school gym. The superintendent said this could cause other planned events to be impacted.
Buses will now operate out of the West Parking Lot so no one will be allowed to park there during school hours.
Harres said they don’t know how much this will cost until they determine what is causing it.
The school has insurance, but for this type of issue, Harres said the state only allows them to be insured up to $750,000, so if this damage surpasses that they’ll have to figure something out.
Harres said the DNR will likely collected a couple weeks of data to come to a conclusion.
Many have speculated that this could be an issue of mine subsidence which St. Clair County has dealt with in the past, but that won’t be confirmed until the DNR determines a cause.
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