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Elgin school evacuated because of nearby gas leak

Elgpolice fire officials confer outside Abbott Middle School Wednesday after gas leak caused Abbott's students staff be evacuated LarkHigh School

Elgin police and fire officials confer outside Abbott Middle School Wednesday after a gas leak caused Abbott's students and staff to be evacuated to Larkin High School, eight blocks away. | DAVE GATHMAN~SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Updated: September 23, 2013 2:23PM

ELGIN — Abbott Middle School, at Van Street and Commonwealth Avenue on Elgin’s west side, was evacuated for several hours Wednesday because of a nearby gas leak caused by a work crew.

Students were walked about eight blocks from Abbott to Larkin High School late Wednesday morning. Some students with disabilities were carried there by vehicle, Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said.

Only a small number of nearby homes also were evacuated. Streets were closed in an area bounded by Mallery Avenue on the east, Carr Street on the south, DuBois Avenue on the west and Van Street on the north.

The leak was caused when a large gas main in the intersection of Shuler Street and Commonwealth Avenue was struck about 10:35 a.m. by a crew trenching for the sewer separation project being done this summer in the Union Street/Chicago Street/Wilcox Avenue area. Gas could be heard roaring from the hole an hour later as Nicor Gas crews struggled to close the leak.

Because of the smell of gas reported inside Abbott, U46 officials initially believed the leak had been caused by work being done by contractors at the school, according to Pat Mogge, district spokesman.

Wednesday is just the third day of the 2013-14 school year in the Elgin school district.

No one was injured, firefighters said.

Abbott students ate pizza in the Larkin gym and watched educational videos in the high school auditorium until their building was cleared by the Elgin Fire Department, according to the U46 Facebook page.

They returned to the middle school at about 2 p.m., where they were dismissed and transported home as usual, it said. But all after-school activities Wednesday were canceled.

“Thank you to students and staff for the respectful manner in which they handled the evacuation,” the district said.

Abbott will reopen Thursday morning, and classes will resume as normal, officials said.

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