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Decatur Public Schools closes Dennis Lab campuses for year over structural concerns

Dennis Lab School in Decatur.

Updated June 13, 2023

DECATUR – Decatur Public Schools has decided to close its two Dennis Lab School buildings for a year due to structural problems.

The district made the announcement on Tuesday. 

“Safety is our first priority. Although we do not have a timeline as to when these structural findings will be addressed or the cost associated with the findings, we do know Dennis Lab School students will not attend school this fall at the two sites,” said DPS Superintendent Rochelle Clark.

The district isn’t sure yet where the K-8 grade students and staff will go in the fall – and hopes to set a plan at the school board meeting on June 27.

Structural engineers have found a multi-story staircase has deteriorated at the Mosaic campus. Meanwhile, the outer walls of the Kaleidoscope building are bowing out and need to be rebuilt, the engineers said. DPS has now posted both reports. 

In response to community questions, the district has also provided previous structural engineering inspections, which were completed in 2013 as required. Neither inspection found serious issues with the staircase or outer walls.  

According to DPS, the district first learned that the Dennis campuses might be compromised on May 30, when they brought in a structural engineer to look at HVAC and water damage concerns reported by staff. 

After a concerning first assessment, DPS temporarily closed the campuses on May 31 “out of an abundance of caution” to assess the structural concerns.

Students and most staff finished their last day of school the day before. Administrators and secretaries were asked to work from home.

The two Dennis Lab Schools are Decatur’s oldest and most historic school buildings, dating back to 1910 and 1914.

District 61 was trying to build a new Dennis Lab School to replace the two campuses but paused after the potential locations proved controversial.

This is a developing story. Click here for updates as we receive them.

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