Urbana Middle School gym closed as crews clean up mold

CHAMPAIGN--A costly clean up is currently underway at Urbana Middle School after a series of complications led to a mold problem on the gym ceiling.

The problems began when the gym floor flooded with rain water in July. Then a mechanical failure with the ventilation system caused condensation on the ceiling. That created the perfect conditions for mold to sprout. Now crews are hard at work to get rid of it.

"I've seen crews in there, coming in and out, every time I come to pick my daughter up," Betzy Gravely, whose daughter is a sixth grader at the middle school.

After the mold was discovered growing on the gym ceiling early in the school year, school administrators acted quickly.

"We had the air quality and the surfaces tested by an outside contractor and came back with no concerns as far as mold being dangerous," said principal Scott Woods. "We still have to remove it."

A process that will cost between $190,000 and $200,000, some of which will be covered by an insurance claim, while the rest will be paid for with emergency expenses approved by the school board.

While work is underway, the room remains off-limits.

"At this point in order for the contractors to do the work, they've sealed up the gym completely and we're not in there at all for anything," said Woods.

Forcing faculty to find other areas for physical education classes.

"Our teachers have done a really good job at being flexible and moving to alternate sites," said Woods. "The weather so far this year has been very nice. So we've been able to be outside a lot."

When it's not, kids are kept inside the two gym balconies, which are unaffected by the mold. But with five and six PE classes per period, they've expanded into classrooms as well.

"I'm sure she'll be glad once she can get in the gym and start playing sports inside, like playing the basketball that they're unable to play right now," said Gravely.

Which should happen by mid-December, when clean up is expected to be complete.

The middle school's athletics program is also being impacted by the mold. The girl's basketball team is using nearby elementary schools to practice and play games. The boys will have to do same after tryouts take place in two weeks.
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