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Back to school: Olympia middle and high school students return after April 13 fire

Olympia High School entrance
Eric Stock
Fire cleanup went faster than expected at Olympia High School and Middle School, enabling students to return to the classroom after weeks of remote learning.

Students are back in the classroom at Olympia Middle School and High School, weeks after a fire damaged much of their school.

Fire caused substantial damage to the school building in rural Stanford on April 13, but cleanup went faster than expected, said superintendent Laura O’Donnell.

O'Donnell said the high school gymnasium remains closed because of water damage and four classrooms had to relocate, but it's otherwise back to normal.

“It’s probably the best-case scenario. We were out a little longer than we wanted to be, but initially we were told we wouldn’t be back this (school) year,” O’Donnell said. “We continued to push the restoration company and they responded, so we were able to get kids back.”

O'Donnell said students are grateful to finish the school year back in the classroom after weeks of online learning.

“They are so thankful to be back,” O’Donnell said. “I’m so glad we could end the year back in person with all of the end of the year activities.”

That includes a high school theater production that will go on as scheduled in the auditorium.

Olympia High School students returned to in-person instruction Monday. Middle School students returned May 2 for standardized testing.

Olympia will move its high school graduation on May 21 to the football field. The middle school will move its promotion ceremony to the middle school gym. The final day of classes is May 25.

The high school gymnasium will be closed for renovations until next school year.

The fire started in solar panels above the high school gym roof.

O'Donnell said a cost estimate still isn't known, but the district expects insurance will cover most of the expense. She said an investigation is underway to see whether the solar company will have to pay for any damages.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.