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TONIGHT AT 11: Ceiling Tiles -- Artwork Or Fire Hazard?

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CLAYTON, N.C. — Art teacher Deborah Coates has a passion for creativity.

Through a Johnston County grant, painting ceiling tiles became her most popular project.

Teachers love the tiles because math and history are incorporated into the design.

At Clayton Middle, everyone enjoyed looking up. The tiles were admired. Now you have to look down to find them. They've gone from a place of honor to the storage room.

The State Department of Public Instruction said all 400-plus painted tiles had to come down. An inspector cited a state code that said if you alter a tile in any way, it can reduce the tile's capability to slow a fire.

Students and Coates were disappointed. She started calling paint and tile companies, looking for assurances that the painted tiles were still safe.

"I got e-mails that said: 'In our opinion, it's safe, but you need certain tests,'" Coates said.

Those tests would cost about $1,500.

So the tiles are now gone.

For the rest of this story, watch Wednesday's WRAL News at 11 p.m.

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