Rantoul school to stay closed till damage is fixed

RANTOUL — Broadmeadow Elementary School will remain closed while school district officials work on repairs to storm damage from the weekend.

Rantoul City Schools Interim Superintendent Michelle Ramage and other district officials met with engineers Monday morning, and Ramage said estimates for the damage were not known yet.

"I just don't imagine we'd have that (by Monday)," Ramage said.

Ramage said she wasn't sure how long the building would be closed.

Teachers came by around noon Monday to pick up a few items, but besides that, the building is closed for the time being.

"I know that the roofers talked about it taking four to five days for them to take care of what they need to take care of," Ramage said. "We're looking at a couple weeks probably."

Broadmeadow has summer school classes, but those were canceled Monday. Ramage said the district will use Eastlawn Elementary School, 650 N. Maplewood Ave., for the remainder of its summer school classes.

A barricade was placed at the front of the school, located at 500 Sunview Road, limiting access to vehicles and pedestrians Monday morning.

The main parking lot of the school is to the right of the building and in the back, where most of the damage took place. Parts of the roof and debris from the building were scattered along the fence located to the left of the school, in a large swath of grass. Trees were damaged just upon the main entrance to the right of the school.

The damage was caused by a brief thunderstorm that rolled through Rantoul about 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said the storm was brief and isolated.

"It just kind of swooped down, and it was gone," Waters said, noting that damage was due to straight-line winds.

"One of my firemen said rain was going horizontal for just two to three minutes."

The storm dropped about 0.60 inch of rain.

Waters said he was at his shop about a mile from the school and heard only a little thunder.

"When we got (to the school), oh my gosh," Waters said.

He said a neighbor called police, saying "something wasn't right at the school."

After hearing the officer's dispatch that there was damage at the school, Waters and other firemen headed there with equipment, including the fire department ladder truck.

Waters viewed the extent of the roof damage and said there were 3 to 4 inches of water in the gymnasium.

"Steve Hatfield (of Rantoul City Schools) was calling people in to try to save the gym floor," Waters said.

Damage was confined primarily to the Broadmeadow Road area.

A large tree limb came down on the roof of a house about two blocks from the school along U.S. 136.

Greg Hazel, Rantoul director of public works, said the storm did not cause any electrical outages or related problems in the village.

He said village employees spent Monday morning "picking up branches and brush from the (area) along Broadmeadow (Road).

"It was really a concentrated area," Waters said.

Ramage received a phone call Saturday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. informing her the roof had been blown off.

"I got here in 15 minutes, and we came in," Ramage said. "By that time, a firetruck was already here and custodians were here. We just walked around in a bit of a daze because the damage was quite extensive."

Ramage said standing water was in the gym when she arrived.

"Our buildings and grounds guys were here, and they had shut off the power," Ramage said. "No lights were on, but the gym was pretty bright from the light from the holes in the roof."

Ramage said the roof is 3 to 4 years old. Ramage said damage happened on the north side of the building where the fifth-grade wing is in several classrooms.

"The way it was kind of described to me, the roof came off the gym, and those pieces bounced across that wing," Ramage said. "That damaged the roof all along the side. When you walk into some classrooms, there are some classrooms that water came in, and you could see the sky."

Ramage said some computers were damaged, but "there was not extensive damage in the classrooms."

Ramage, who lives in Mahomet, said she was stunned when she received the phone call Saturday afternoon.

"I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Ramage said. "It was even sunny at my house. When we came near here, you could tell that it had rained quite a bit, and there were a couple of trees down along (U.S.) 136, but it had rained enough that we were standing in water in the gym."

With another set of storms Saturday night dropping more rain on the building, Ramage said workers were at the school well into Sunday morning trying to secure temporary covering over the roof to prevent any more water damage.

Ramage has been the district's interim superintendent since February 2011 and was named in May as the district's full-time superintendent, which doesn't become official until July 1. She said the response from various staff in the district, community members, the Rantoul Police Department and Rantoul Fire Department, was gratifying to see.

"For as awful as the situation was, I have been so impressed," Ramage said. "It was just incredible. People are so nice, so helpful and so genuine. We could have had people screaming and yelling at each other, but they were terrific.

"Everybody immediately went into the mode of what can we do to fix things right now, and what plan do we need to make."

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