Fumes sicken 4 at school students sent home

November 03, 1994|By Anne Haddad and Bill Talbott | Anne Haddad and Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writers

A custodian and three other staff members at the Gateway School, an alternative program for Carroll County, became ill yesterday when a mixture of fumes from materials being used by a contractor in an adjoining building seeped into the Westminster school.

The 65 teen-age students were sent home early yesterday, as they had been Tuesday when fumes were also noticed in the building, which is in the business park at Carroll County Regional Airport.

The custodian was taken to Carroll County General Hospital in a fire department medic vehicle. The other three staff members who reported feeling ill said they would seek their own medical care, Principal Larry Norris said.

Classes were expected to resume this morning, Mr. Norris said. The building has been ventilated since yesterday, and school officials have been assured that the work causing the fumes would not go on while students are in the building, he said.

Some staff remained yesterday after the building was ventilated, he said, but night classes were canceled.

Staff and students noticed fumes Tuesday, Mr. Norris said, and he decided to send students home at noon. The fire department was not notified Tuesday.

Yesterday, Mr. Norris sent students home at 11:30 a.m., shortly after the staff members became ill.

Earlier yesterday, as staffers decided what to do, students were sent outside with instructors.

Firefighters from the Westminster and Pleasant Valley stations came to the school, in the 1100 block of Business Parkway S, and found that renovation workers in the next building were using paint thinner, roofing material and solvents, and the fumes were being blown into the school by the brisk winds.

Fire officials notified Maryland Occupational Safety and Health officers and stopped the renovation pending an agency inspection.

"We decided it was in the best interest of the students' health not to have them near these fumes," Mr. Norris said. The school system leases the airport space.

"Unfortunately, it's not work done by us, or under our control," he said.

The school is an alternative program for middle and high school students. It includes students who have been expelled from school and emotionally handicapped students who receive special education.

Mr. Norris said the youths were cooperative during the incidents. "They remained in control, were responsive to what we told them to do," he said. He said they also enjoyed the break in routine.

In addition to the 65 students, about 10 adult students in another program and 40 staff members for the teen and adult programs were in the building yesterday morning.

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