SPRINGFIELD - Springfield Public School students, staff and administration were evacuated to the Springfield Community Center Thursday morning after students fell ill in the school auditorium.
Springfield Police Chief John Nicholson said the first call came in at 9:42 a.m. and reported a number of ill students. Springfield Ambulance transported them to the Mayo Clinic Health System, Springfield. In the meantime, school administration evacuated all other students and staff to the Springfield Community Center, about a mile east of the school.
When the decision was made to evacuate the school, carbon monoxide was suspected; however, a check of the school found no carbon monoxide by late afternoon on Thursday.
Thirty elementary students were treated at Mayo Clinic Health System Springfield. They suffered from nausea and headaches, which are symptoms of possible CO poisoning. All but one student had been discharged by early evening. That student remained in the emergency room for observation, according to Kevin Burns, director of Public Affairs for Mayo.
No CO found
A thorough check of the school building found no carbon monoxide as of 3:30 p.m., according the Springfield Fire Chief Charlie Baumann.
Springfield firefighters, gas company representatives and an environmental representative for the district spent the day in the building, which was locked for the night when they left about 3:30 p.m.
Plans called for returning to the school early today before students and staff arrived, according to Baumann, to thoroughly check the building.
Because the building must be declared safe before school can start, Baumann anticipated a two-hour late start for today, and said parents would be notified via a telephone call.
The possibility of carbon monoxide situation put Springfield residents on edge. "We had a carbon monoxide incident," Baumann said. That incident in late December of last year took the lives of Nathan Potter and Adam Jensen in a rural Springfield residence when a furnace malfunctioned.
"That could very well have been," Baumann said, referring to heightened concern on Thursday after the recent fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Baumann's 29 years on the Springfield Fire Department, he has not dealt with a situation that involved so many people.
"It was a wise decision to evacuate," Baumann said.
Richert's Bus Service Inc. of Springfield transported several hundred students to the community center, where tables were set up to account for them. Springfield Ambulance employees on the scene checked of their vital signs.
Parents were called to pick up their children at the community center, which was staffed by Springfield Police and Ambulance and Lamberton police. The district's total enrollment is 587 students. All after-school activities were cancelled for Thursday.
Soon after receiving the call for medical assistance, Mayo Clinic Health System sent doctors and nurses from area Mayo sites to Springfield, according to Burns.
The Springfield Fire and Utilities Departments plus Center Point Energy went to the school Thursday morning. Firefighters ensured the school was completely evacuated.
"We have this all spelled out in our emergency plan. It all went very smoothly for the entire community. Teachers led students out of the building and to the community center, carrying their emergency plans binders with them," Springfield City Manager Mac Tilberg said. "If anything, was learned today, it's that it's better to err on the side of caution."
Mayo Clinic Health System partners with first responders, law enforcement and other agencies and practices for emergency situations like the one in Springfield on Thursday, Burns said.
"Today was one of those day when practice paid off," he said.