Ceiling collapse at Will County high school raises safety concerns

Concerns about safety are mounting after a classroom ceiling at Lockport Township High School's Central Campus building in Will County caved in early Thursday morning. Parents are now demanding answers and seeking assurances about the well-being of their children.

Fortunately, the incident occurred before any students or staff were inside the building, but the collapse of a third-floor classroom ceiling has raised questions about the structural integrity of the school. In response, all classes at the affected building were canceled for the day.

"It's heavy, thick two-inch plaster, 1928 construction method. It brought everything down that you can imagine: lights, electricity," said the Lockport Township High School superintendent, Dr. Robert McBride.

One parent voiced concerns about potential hazardous materials, such as asbestos, in the collapsed ceiling. They were calling for a comprehensive analysis by a qualified professional to determine whether any such materials are present.

"Immediately, we secured the area. We cleared the entire floor," said McBride. "We do not have asbestos in those ceilings. There are no particles of asbestos that anyone has been exposed to."

And on Friday, the school district confirmed no asbestos has been found in the debris. Forensic architects will continue over the weekend testing classrooms on the Central Campus.

Now, students at the Central Campus are forced to attend virtual classes and will continue with online learning next week as inspections and repairs are completed.

"We're not going to feel comfortable until every single building, I mean, every single room and every single space at Central Campus is checked and assessed," said McBride.

The school has wanted renovations for the more than 100-year-old building. The school board has been discussing an annual tax levy and plans for major renovations.

"Previously, the district proposed to the community building a brand new building, and it went into referendum six times, but the community voted no for that," said McBride.

The school says until they can confirm that the building is safe, it will remain closed.

"The safety and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority," said McBride.

The Central Campus was built in 1909 and had major additions in 1930 and 1953, the district’s website said. The school includes an indoor swimming pool and athletic fields are within walking distance. In the fall of 1997, the Central Campus was renamed District 205 Freshman Center.

School Day Plans on Friday, November 3:

  • Central Campus Students: On Friday, November 3, Central Campus staff and students will be using an eLearning platform. Central students only will be following the regular Central Campus Bell Schedule, 7:45 AM - 2:45 PM, and meeting with their teachers on Google Meet. Students can access these Google Meet links via their Google Classroom. Student instructions for Google Meet are available on the website: https://www.lths.org/central-e-learning
  • East Campus Students: On Friday, November 3, East Campus students will continue with their regular, in-person school day schedule, and their schedules will not be interrupted.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.