Tests show no CO in Springfield school

SPRINGFIELD – After an all-school evacuation Thursday due to 30 elementary students becoming ill and being seen at the hospital, Springfield Public Schools were cleared for occupancy Friday, according to a letter on the school district website home page.

Superintendent Keith Kottke’s two letters dated Friday said the school was cleared for occupancy after consultation with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Indoor Air Supervisor Dan Tranter. “Test readings for carbon monoxide (CO) levels in the school building continue to remain at zero,” Kottke wrote.

“Our understanding is that CO levels of one or two are not uncommon and within normal range,” the letter continued. “Additional testing for carbon dioxide, oxygen and hazardous chemicals were performed throughout the building and reported to be a non factor, according to testing by the Institute of Environmental Assessment (EIA), Centerpoint Energy and the Springfield Fire Department.”

Lab work results on students transported to Mayo Clinic Health System, Springfield Thursday revealed normal CO levels, the letter added. “It isn’t ruled out that this may have been a result of the students receiving oxygen as soon as they did. It isn’t uncommon for situations to occur where one student becomes ill and others around them become ill due to anxiety. What was concerning was the number of students that fell ill at the same time.”

Kottke said the school’s response has been to cautiously treat the incident as if it were a result of CO. The school looked into factors where the affected students may have ridden the same school bus or eaten something specific at school for breakfast that morning, but no common factor was found.

He said the school has completed extensive air quality testing, had its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor inspect the system, and added carbon monoxide testing in the school building.

School classes were not held Friday, but school doors were open and the district office in the school building was staffed. A number of students and staff were in the building, picking up necessary belongings including homework.

The Lamberton at Springfield girls basketball game was rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8. The game starts at 6:15 p.m. A school Open House/Open Gym will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.

Kottke and Springfield Fire Department representatives will be in and around the high school gym and auditorium lobby to answer any questions and concerns.

Kottke said media reports that the MDH suspects possible illness causes due to “psychogenic” origin, did not come from school officials. “The school responded to the issues that were present and is not qualified to make that type of determination,” Kottke wrote.

School will resume Monday. Officials will monitor CO in and around the bus drop-off zones to rule out any other possible CO source. The school auditorium, where students became ill Thursday, will not be open until later next week, allowing for further testing.

“Thank you for your help as we try to bring normalcy back into our school community. Contact me if you have any questions,” Kottke wrote.

For more information, visit www.springfield.mntm.org/site/default.aspx?PageID=1

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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