$1.9 million in federal funds to help fix Swansea school damaged by mine collapse
Five months after Wolf Branch Middle School in Swansea was shut down due to structural damage caused by the ground sinking, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation (OSMRE) has approved nearly $1.9 million for the state to restore the school site.
OSMRE recently approved the Abandoned Mine Land project (AML), which will allow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) AML Emergency Program to oversee restoring Wolf Branch. The school was closed for safety reasons, and its over 450 students were relocated to a nearby school.
The school, built in 2002 at a cost of $16 million, sits on the site of the abandoned Summit Coal Mine, which operated from 1894 to 1940. According to the IDNR, the school building has dropped almost 25 inches since the old mine workings collapsed, causing structural damage.
“The effective coordination among state, federal and the local authorities is paramount to the success of this project," IDNR Office of Mines and Minerals Director Tom Benner said in a news release."
"The efficient leveraging of available funds will allow the school building to reopen and, most importantly, to ensure a safe place for the children to learn," he said.
“The onsite expertise and funding assistance made possible through the AML Program have been vital in allowing the district to take the necessary steps to safely house our grades five through eighth students at the Wolf Branch Middle School as soon as possible," Wolf Branch School Superintendent Scott Harres said in a statement.
Plans call for the pumping of grouting material into the abandoned mine to start in April followed by the removal and then rebuilding of the damaged portions of the school building.