Rifle school closed after odor sickens occupants
September 2, 2011
RIFLE, Colo. – Twenty-two students and one staff member from Graham Mesa Elementary School were treated at local hospitals Thursday after they became ill as a result of an unidentified odor.
The incident also resulted in the evacuation of the school, which was to remain closed Friday as the Rifle Fire Department continued its investigation into the cause.
The odor was detected in a single classroom at the school around 11:45 a.m. Thursday.
Over the course of the morning several students began to feel ill, according to Garfield School District Re-2 Director of Districtwide Services Theresa Hamilton.
“As a precautionary measure, all students and staff were evacuated and students were relocated to Wamsley Elementary School where they finished the school day,” she said.
Hamilton said the incident appeared to be isolated to one classroom, but all 365 students in the school, plus staff, were evacuated pending the investigation.
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The school began notifying parents through an autodialer or personal phone calls at approximately 1:30 p.m., she said.
A total of 16 students and one teacher were transported to Grand River Hospital District in Rifle.
As of late afternoon, all 17 had been treated and released, according to Annick Pruett, spokeswoman for Grand River Hospital.
She said the students and teacher brought to Grand River were experiencing symptoms including dizziness and difficulty breathing.
“We do not know the origin of the health problems,” Pruett said.
In addition, six students were transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. All of those students were eventually released after treatment, according to Hamilton.
“Staff members accompanied students to both locations,” she said.
“The initial findings from Rifle Fire Department’s investigation showed no indication of carbon monoxide or natural gas,” Hamilton said.
Food poisoning was also investigated, but does not appear to be a likely cause either.
Graham Mesa Elementary students will not have class Friday, as Rifle Fire Protection District and Garfield Re-2 continue their investigations, she said.
The school district had engineers on site to investigate the mechanical systems, and will also have environmental consultants in Friday to evaluate the building for mold.
Updates will continue to be sent to parents, Hamilton said.
The Graham Mesa Elementary building is three years old, she said.