Severe storms that battered the northwest suburbs last Friday caused $5 million worth of damage at Wheeling High School, and school officials are scrambling to fix it all.
"It was right at dismissal," said Angie Ginnan, associate principal of operations. "The school bell rang at 2:50 p.m. We lost power at 2:51."
While students sheltered in place, the high winds took their toll, causing an estimated $5 million in damage on school property.
"We knew it was going to be a heavier rain," Lynn Perry, the mother of a student, said, "but I didn't have any inclination it was as strong as it was."
A light pole by the athletic fields came crashing down, but the school's field house took the biggest hit when three-quarters of the roof ripped off. Now a temporary, black tarp being held down by buckets is all that's covering the field house.
"The amount of water damage that came in was significant," Ted Birren, director of operations for District 214, said. "I haven't seen anything like that, and I've been with the district 22 years."
Gymnastics mats and athletic equipment now fill dumpsters outside. The flooding also ruined the flooring, track and insulation. That means for now, most gym classes are being held outside, and athletic events need to be moved.
"All of our fall and winter athletic events will have to be relocated," Ginnan said. "The other schools in the district have reached out to help us, as well as our district office."
District officials have filed an insurance claim, but the board will vote Thursday to expedite repairs by eliminating the usual six-month bidding and approval process required for all projects.
"The funding will come from our reserves," Birren said, "and then we'll be refunded by insurance. But in order to immediately get the repairs done to the field house, we need to spend the money now."
"It's an urgent matter," Ginnan said. "It's an emergency. Our job is to educate kids and have a safe building so I think that's first and foremost."
UPDATE: School Board OKs Emergency Repairs to Wheeling High School