LHS main gym closes after testing positive for lead paint


Molly Boufford

While the main gym was closed there were warning signs on all of the gym doors as well as wrestling mats in front of the doors to block the entrances.

Following a positive test for traces of lead in the paint of the main gym, the gym was closed for nearly three weeks to fix the problem; it reopened when students returned from spring break, on Monday, April 1.

The gym was closed on March 12 after students mentioned to the building and grounds staff that paint was falling from the ceiling; the paint then tested positive for lead, according to Mr. Briant Kelly, the District 128 associate superintendent. The work to fix this issue started the morning of March 19.

“Because of spring break and everyone being out of the building, it [allowed] for the companies to get a lot [of the work] done,” said Mr. Kelly.

Lead paint has been banned since the 1970s due to the hazards of the deterioration of the paint. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if a home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier.

Although the lead paint is a safety concern, it is only toxic to people when it is digested into the body. However, as Mr. Kelly explained, it was still a concern to have the problem fixed immediately.

“[The paint] could get on someone’s shoes or hands and then be ingested accidentally,” said Mr. Kelly.

On March 18, the district’s Board of Education approved two contracts regarding hiring a business to remove the paint. ARC Environmental based out of Chicago completed the lead paint mitigation, scraping and painting in the gym. A second company, PSI, oversaw the work to ensure that the mitigation was done properly and to standards. The bill was $3,971 for PSI to consult. The final invoice for ARC environmental has not yet been given.

The closure from March 18 through April 1 affected the PE department as well as spring sports.

For example, the varsity and junior varsity badminton teams had to practice at Vernon Hills High School, and the JV2 team practiced at the sports complex to keep up with their practices to prepare for competitions.  

“The only lines and nets for badminton in the building are in the main gym so, if we can’t get in the main gym, we can’t play badminton,” Mrs. Judi Neuburger, the varsity badminton coach and A-F LST counselor, explained over email.

Due to the fact that VHHS also has a badminton team and other sports, the LHS teams had to take the latest practice times and shorten some of the practices.

Despite all this, the varsity and JV1 badminton teams won their first meet against Warren on March 21.

“The team was amazing and really good sports about all of the rescheduling and abbreviated practice times,” said Mrs. Neuberger.

As for the PE department, the classes had to switch activity spaces each period. Junior/senior PE usually uses the main gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for their team units, while Tuesday and Thursday are cardio days. Currently, they are in their single/dual sports unit and were in the middle of their badminton rotation when the main gym was closed.

Since there was no other space available for the classes, Ms. Patti Masica, the PE department supervisor, got approval from the school for the class to return to the bowling unit that usually is only in first semester. This allows the group to leave the campus and bowl at Brunswick Lane in Vernon Hills. However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, classes had to combine with similar courses to fit everyone into the activity spaces available.

“[We found] the space that people had similar objectives but different classes… [for example] freshmen combined with CrossFit,” described Ms. Masica.

The PE department could have put classes into study halls but the educators wanted to keep the students moving for the 45 minute period.

“Our goal is to always keep our curriculum moving and not plug in something unrelated to what our objectives were,” says Ms. Masica.