No harm found in foul air: SAES students back in classrooms today
COAL TOWNSHIP - Students will return today to two wings of the Shamokin Area Elementary School that were temporarily closed out of concern of a suspicious odor.
There were no harmful or unusual substances found in the preliminary results of air-quality testing performed Wednesday by JMSI Environmental Corp., Swoyersville, according to Superintendent James Zack.
"There is no reason for concern relative to health and safety as it relates to air quality," said Zack, quoting an email from the environmental consulting firm.
"They gave us the green light to reoccupy. There was absolutely nothing they could find at least with the preliminary tests," Zack said.
The source of the odor has not been detected, but administrators said the scent didn't return Wednesday. It's possible, Zack said, that the odor could have been drawn from the outdoors into the building by its air system. But the odor had been smelled by staff in the past.
Both the state Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were contacted about the suspicious odor, Zack said.
Laboratory results are expected in a few days. In the meantime, students and staff in the fifth- and sixth-grades will return to their normal routine.
More than 350 people were displaced from the two wings to different parts of the building Tuesday morning. Those wings remained closed off throughout Wednesday. No other students or staff were displaced.
Classrooms, hallways, storage spaces and more were tested Wednesday in the fifth-grade and sixth-grade wings, where the smell was detected Tuesday morning. The third-grade and fourth-grade wings were also tested out of precaution, according to Anthony Carnuccio, middle/high school assistant principal.
Cause of rash?
Photos of a young girl with a rash on her face and arm were sent by email to The News-Item from a woman who says she is the parent of a district elementary student. The unidentified girl was reportedly treated at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, for an airborne allergic reaction to exposed parts of her body.
Zack wouldn't discuss specific cases, citing privacy regulations, but said he was made aware Wednesday of two instances where students were treated at area emergency rooms for allergic reactions. However, he said there is nothing so far to indicate that air quality in the elementary building was the cause.
"We're certainly monitoring it. If we had a bunch of students getting rashes and headaches, that's a different situation. We hope to get some answers from the overall testing," Zack said.
On Tuesday, Zack said there were no cases of students seeking treatment from the school nurse related to the smell in the fifth-grade and sixth-grade wings.
There were 61 absences Wednesday at the elementary school, which is fewer than average. The school has at least 1,000 students, Zack said, and averages a 90-percent daily attendance rate.
The building was closed from Friday through Monday for the Easter holiday.
Mary Teresa Komara, elementary principal, and Shannon Fetterman, elementary assistant principal, were each unavailable for comment.