KANKAKEE — Today is the last day students at Lincoln Cultural Center and King Middle School will attend school in person for the foreseeable future, and it has nothing to do with COVID-19.
The schools are being closed due to problem boilers at LCC.
Combined, more than 800 students attend these two schools. The district’s administration offices are also located at LCC.
Kankakee School District 111 announced via Facebook on Tuesday evening that boilers at LCC, which provide heat to both LCC and King, are expected to be “decommissioned” and deemed illegal to operate, per the Illinois State Fire Marshal.
Therefore, students will be working remotely starting Thursday through at least Jan. 28.
Information was also shared with families Tuesday evening in Skyward and via phone call, according to the post.
Superintendent Genevra Walters said Tuesday evening that the district has not gotten an official letter from the fire marshal, but this is expected to happen.
“In my opinion, if the State Fire Marshal is speaking about it, we shouldn’t wait until we get an official letter,” she said. “We should go ahead and create a tentative plan until we get an official statement.”
If the boilers are not decommissioned, students would return to in-person learning Jan. 31.
If the boilers are decommissioned as expected, staff at King and LCC would be relocated to other to-be-determined areas until the boilers are replaced and the buildings are approved for occupancy.
Walters said the district has had problems with the LCC boilers for a while because of their age, and plans were already in motion to address them.
During Monday’s Kankakee School Board meeting, the board approved a base bid of $1,251,000 to replace the LCC boilers.
Walters said she learned Tuesday that the existing boilers would likely be decommissioned.
“The process of getting a replacement takes five to six months just to get the [new] boilers into the building,” she said. “Whether or not we would try to maintain [the old boilers] for the next five to six months, it just depends on the overall cost of doing that.”
Students were encouraged to attend school in person today, as it will be “the last day students will be able to enter the buildings for the foreseeable future,” the Facebook post states.
All students will work remotely Thursday and Friday, with work to be posted online and teacher office hours held from 9 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.
Students are off Jan. 17 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and LCC and King students will continue learning fully remotely from Jan. 18 to 28.
“As we solidify plans regarding the possibility of relocation and returning to in-person learning, we will strive to keep you informed early and often via email, teacher communication, and all calls,” the post concludes.
Walters said the district is working out locations for LCC and King staff members to go so that students will have access to their teachers during remote learning.
By Jan. 28, she expects to have a clearer picture of what fire officials recommend surrounding the current boilers.