Prussing students evacuated after boiler room malfunction
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
More than 80 people were sent to hospitals after a carbon monoxide leak was reported Friday morning, Oct. 30, at Prussing School, 4650 N. Menard Ave.
Officers from the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District were called at about 9:30 a.m. to assist firefighters who responded to a report that a student had fainted in the school, according to police. Firefighters reported that elevated levels of carbon monoxide were discovered in the school, likely due to a heating system malfunction, police said.
Several other students and teachers complained of lightheadedness and nausea while paramedics were treating the first child, according to police. The school was evacuated, and other students and teachers reported that they felt sick, police said.
More than 80 people, including more than 70 students, were treated at area hospitals, police said. Fire Department officials said that the remaining students were bused to Smyser School, 4310 N. Melvina Ave.
The leak started in the boiler room, according to officials.
“This is a great response from everybody,” Alderman John Arena (45th) said. “It doesn’t look like anyone was seriously hurt, but they were taken to the hospital. CTA buses are taking the kids to Smyser.”
Prussing School Local School Council chairwoman Michele Taylor said that the council has been receiving reports since early 2013 that the school’s boiler, where the carbon monoxide leak occurred, was in poor condition and should be replaced. A carbon monoxide detector near the boiler reportedly did not work last week, but the school received several new detectors, which are not required by law in schools, before it re-opened on Nov. 2, she said.
It is not known when the boiler may be replaced, but school system officials have said that they will provide an update by Friday, Nov. 6, Taylor said. “People are scared,” she said. “They’re keeping their kids home from school.”
Taylor said that while there was some confusion during the evacuation, it is believed that none of the students was seriously injured, and in some instances staff members accompanied the children to the hospital. “The children’s safety was the number one priority of the staff, and we are grateful for that,” she said.
“We’d like to report that all of our students and staff are doing well, and we will be placing two carbon monoxide monitors on every floor of the school. Engineers were in the school over the weekend to make sure everything is functioning properly,” a statement on the school’s Web site said.