Students at St. Henry Catholic School, 300 E. Cady St., were evacuated from the building Monday afternoon because of concerns the building’s structural integrity was compromised.
Principal Francine Butzine said the ladies serving lunch discovered the problem.
“The ladies who were serving heard a crackling sound, looked around and realized the tiles on the floor were breaking up,” Butzine said.
The school was immediately evacuated and the fire department dispatched. The city building inspector was also called, Butzine said.
Butzine said she was told the building is safe and students are expected to return Wednesday.
Because the problem lies in the ground underneath the kitchen, crews will have to dig below the tiles, putting the kitchen out of commission for the remainder of the school year, Butzine said. As a result, there will be no hot lunch for the rest of the year.
The cause of the “crackling” and breaking tiles remains unknown. City Building Inspector Joe Heimsch said it could either be a problem with the building’s foundation or with pipes running under the floor.
“There’s half-inch ceramic tile throughout the kitchen floor. The ceramic tile lifted up in many areas about 2 inches, so it’s some sort of building movement,” Heimsch said. “I’m hoping that it was some kind of floor reaction.”
At this point, the tile lifting is isolated to the kitchen area and has not spread to the cafeteria.
Sanitary, storm and gas pipes shifting in the ground could have caused the tile lifting, and workers from Maas Brothers Construction are “coring holes to try to find out what went wrong,” Heimsch said. Heimsch will also put a camera through the pipework to see if any collapsed.
“I’m concerned the gas lines have been compromised and I want to visually see and put pressure tests on those gas lines to make sure they’re all intact,” Heimsch said.
The Daily Times will report more information as soon as it becomes available.