Midwest School

The Midwest School cafeteria is seen through the front windows. The building was evacuated in May 2016 due to high levels of benzene and carbon dioxide in the air.

File, Star-Tribune

A waterline break at Midwest School damaged around 5,000 square feet of the building last month but shouldn’t delay the school reopening next fall, officials said.

Dennis Bay, Natrona County School District’s executive director of business services, said the break, which was located primarily in the high school wing of the building, was discovered on Dec. 23. FDL Energy, the company that runs the oil field that surrounds Midwest and is involved in adding measures to prevent gas leaks into the building, found the flooding.

It’s unclear how many days had passed between the waterline breaking and FDL discovering the problem.

“Right now we are scheduling a trip with one of our contractors and consultants to go out there (early next week), assess the damage and develop a plan on how they’re going to get in there and repair all the damages,” Bay said.

Because that work has not started, Bay said it’s unclear how much it will cost to repair the damage.

Midwest is currently vacant. A gas leak from a nearby well last spring forced the evacuation and indefinite closure of the school, and students have been bused to Westwood Elementary and Pathways schools in Casper.

Bay said the school’s disuse over the past several months may have contributed to the pipe bursting, but it’s difficult to say for certain because the flooding ruined the nearby furnace.

Last month, officials said students should be back in Midwest starting in fall 2017. Though the flooding adds complications, Bay said the school should still be open again by August.

In an effort to ensure a gas leak doesn’t spill into the school again, consultants are designing a system to pump air from beneath the school and eject it over building. That system is set to be installed by April.

Until the system is up and running and subsequent testing gives the all-clear, repair crews cannot enter the parts of Midwest affected by the flooding, Bay said. He said he hopes construction will be underway by May.

Bay said there was also minor flooding at Fairgrounds Center, which is also vacant. He said the damage there was not as extensive as the damage to Midwest.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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