VALPARAISO | The rupture of a natural gas line near Ben Franklin Middle School prompted officials to evacuate the school Tuesday morning.
Students and staff were bused to the Valparaiso High School field house for several hours until the leak was repaired disrupting much of the school day for the teachers and 760 students at the school.
No injuries were reported.
Valparaiso police Sgt. Mike Grennes said police were called about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday about the smell of natural gas in the neighborhood.
Because of the direction of the wind, the gas was drifting toward the school.
Fire Department officials decided to clear the building, Grennes said.
Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Mike Berta said officials initially were told the repair might take several hours, which is why administrators decided to move the students to the high school.
NIPSCO crews arrived about 10:30 a.m. to begin to fix the gas leak. The leak was repaired about 11:20 a.m.
Berta said school officials regularly plan for school evacuations, but the action of transporting every student from one school to another is not that common.
He said the time of the gas leak — during the middle of the morning — allowed for school officials to get buses to transport the students. Had it happened earlier or later, many of the buses would have been in use on other routes, Berta said.
He said the evacuation meant the loss of a day of teaching and learning.
ISTEP+ testing had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Berta said the breakdown in the statewide computer system administering the test means Ben Franklin students face the same make-up of that test as other students around the state.
Berta said a track meet scheduled at Ben Franklin was rescheduled.
Rick Calinski, public affairs manager for NIPSCO, said crews repaired the line in about an hour. Nine residential customers in the area lost gas service. He said NIPSCO workers would contact each affected customer and make sure their equipment was safe before relighting pilot lights.
Berta praised the response from NIPSCO workers and local emergency responders.
"We tend to look for what went wrong, but I’ll emphasize what went right. These types of situation are always a very anxious-causing situation for staff and kids because it’s a disruption for them," Berta said. "But, I would tell you it went extremely well."