Sinkhole at Ringgold Middle School to be fixed

June 19, 2014

FINLEYVILLE – A sinkhole that opened in the parking lot of Ringgold Middle School will be fixed today.

The 18-inch-wide sinkhole appeared eight days ago in the middle of the parking lot, according to Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla. A resident walking in the area discovered it.

Polkabla believes the harsh winter and strong, early June storms caused the hole. The middle school and its parking lot in Union Township sit over an abandoned mine. Polkabla said this isn’t the first time a sinkhole has appeared on the property.

“There are pillars to support the school,” she said. “There’s nothing to support the parking lot. … A few years ago, there was a sinkhole higher on the property along the hill, near the tree line.”

State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister said the DEP is handling the repairs. Poister said the hole is roughly 20 feet deep. Crushed stone will be trucked in, then compacted into the hole to make sure all voids are filled, Poister said.

Poister said past sinkholes that opened on the property were filled in the same manner.

“The main job will be to fill the hole. While we are there, we’ll inspect to see if there are signs of any other holes developing,” Poister said in an email. “But because we can’t really predict when and where these holes open up, we can only respond when a hole appears.”

While the building is believed to be safe, the latest sinkhole will likely reignite debate about the need to construct a new middle school.

The district spent millions of dollars stabilizing the current building because it is built on pyritic soil that periodically swells and lifts the building.

Polkabla said past discussion included building a new middle school near the high school campus along Route 136 in Carroll Township. But Polkabla said the topic has been put on hold until the state reauthorizes money to help districts construct new schools.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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