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Beardstown Schools Closed Due to Flood
Flood waters continue to rise, threatening towns up and down the Illinois River. In Beardstown, school kids get the next three days off. The Illinois River is expected to crest at 29.9 feet this weekend, breaking records for high water.
There are already reports of water seeping through the flood gates in the river town. City leaders are confident the concrete levee will hold back the rising river, but more than 1,500 students have spent the past two days moving things off the lower level of the school and pitching in to help their neighbors.
"We put an announcement out last night that if they needed to be at home to help their families, help their neighbors or go in the community to help--we wanted them to go out and do community service today, we would excuse that if they called in," Superintendent Reggie Clinton said. "So a lot of kids are gone today, and that’s good. That's great stuff."
After the district got word of the projected river crests, the decision was made to spend two days prepping the school for a flood, and then sending students into the community to help out with sandbagging efforts. Clinton said that the Army Corp of Engineers' recent inspection of Beardstown's levee showed it could likely hold back flood waters, as long as they don't rise above it.
"Everybody needs to just not be panicking, because everybody wants to move out and this and that, but we're okay," longtime Beardstown resident Larry Perkins said. "I think we're going to be alright."
Fortunately, the forecast keeps the water levels below the concrete. If the levee is breached, water could be covering the entire first flood of Beardstown High School and Middle School, which sits blocks from the river. That risk was a major factor for closing down Beardstown schools.
"If you had students here, it's not like snow where you might have half a day to get kids out," Clinton said. "We might've had a couple hours to respond to a true emergency. Trying to move 1,500 students somewhere safe, and then release them to parents--that's a monumental task."
He said another reason they decided to close the schools was because some families have already left Beardstown to wait out the river's crest. He thinks parents still in town, will feel more secure having their kids with them until the river starts to go back down.
The city also issued a mandatory water conservation order because of the threat of flooding at the water treatment plant. The order will be in effect until further notice.