East Chicago, Indiana’s school district has received a $3 million state disaster relief loan to make an abandoned middle school suitable for elementary school students.
After dangerous levels of lead and arsenic were found next to Carrie Gosh Elementary School, district officials relocated the school’s 450 students to a former middle school that had been empty for one year.
“It was not in any way shape or form ready for school to be open in that building,” says Paige McNulty, School City of East Chicago Superintendent.
The northwest Indiana district will use the loan to pay for renovations before school started and remaining construction, remodeling and repair, including:
- $750,000 for classroom renovations, including updating classrooms to accomodate special needs students and dismantling two former computer labs.
- $670,000 for exterior modifications, like new signage, ramps and electrical updates.
- $500,000 for lowering toilets and sinks, to make bathrooms “elementary friendly.”
- $20,000 for “insect remediation,” throughout the school building.
Much of the disaster relief funding will also cover the first renovations the district performed in the five days before the start of the school year.
Although most of Carrie Gosch Elementary School’s grounds were marked safe, district officials wanted parents to have confidence that their children were at a safe facility — and they looked to the recently vacated middle school across town.
McNulty says the district already worked with staff, volunteers and contractors to renovate the bathrooms, install necessary equipment and clean out the abandoned building.
“We had ten moving trucks literally working day and night,” McNulty says. “We moved every piece of furniture out of that building.”
In a matter of five days. With little sleep.
“We all took turns resting, it was a very stressful time,” McNulty says. “We wanted to make sure that school was looking good and ready for the first day of school. And it was.”
Eddie Melton of Gary, the state board of education member representing the East Chicago area, was instrumental in getting the loan to the East Chicago district.
Both Mcnulty and Melton are asking state legislators to forgive the $3 million dollar loan, which currently is scheduled to be paid back to the state at one percent interest over 20 years.
[Photo from Claire McInerny, IPB News]