With old grade school gone, no flooding this time for Gurnee District 56

  • This archival photo shows the old Gurnee Grade School underwater from one of the many floods from the Des Plaines River in Gurnee. It was demolished in 2013.

    This archival photo shows the old Gurnee Grade School underwater from one of the many floods from the Des Plaines River in Gurnee. It was demolished in 2013. Courtesy of Stormwater Management Commission

 
 
Updated 7/27/2017 5:52 PM

Just one month into his tenure as superintendent of Gurnee Elementary School District 56, John Hutton faced the first of several floods that would lead to the 2013 demolition of Gurnee Grade School.

On Thursday, a day after the school board made their tentative budget public, Hutton said he is glad it didn't have to include the $200,000 or so the district regularly spent drying out the old school.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We would have flood insurance never as good as you want it to be," Hutton said remembering what it was like paying for the clean up operations.

If Gurnee Grade School were still standing, this month's floods would have left the district scrambling for where to send students for the start of school in August. And its neighborhood might have been harder hit by the historic flooding because the park where the school once stood absorbed some of the excess water.

Protecting the school with sandbags and other measures also would have required community resources that instead helped elsewhere, said Jack Linehan, assistant to the Gurnee village administrator.

"It makes a big difference," Linehan said. "It took a lot of resources to protect it and a lot of time from people."

The school on Kilbourne Road, just about 600 feet from the Des Plaines River, was built in 1954 and demolished in the fall of 2013. Viking Park now sits there in its place.

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Hutton said he remembers that in years past, even after floodwaters had been beaten back, it was nerve-wracking to contend with potentially dangerous mold and bacteria that could grow after a flood.

This year's flooding will not prevent any of the district's schools from opening on time. It didn't even disrupt Hutton's summer vacation.

"I was out of town," Hutton said. "In the old days I would've had to come back."

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