Students at Jones Intermediate School went home early on Thursday after an odor in the building made multiple individuals ill.
Students were dismissed at 11 a.m. on Thursday, according to a statement from the Mount Airy City Schools.
“Earlier in the day, a smell was reported coming from the HVAC (heating and air conditioning) unit, with some students and teachers complaining of headaches and nausea. Upon noticing the odor, students and teachers left the third grade hall and were moved to the gymnasium and media center away from the situation,” explains the statement from Carrie Venable, public information officer..
Jason Dorsett, chief operations officer for the district, reported to the school to investigate the situation. Shortly after Dorsett’s arrival, the Mount Airy Fire Department and Surry County EMS were called to the campus, according to Venable.
Surry County EMS Director John Shelton said his department and fire department personnel checked the school’s air quality for anything which could be hazardous to an individual’s health, confirming levels of any toxins in the air were not elevated above normal thresholds.
“It was just a sulfur-like smell,” explained Shelton.
The school district indicated paramedics did examine some students and members of the Jones staff for symptoms related to the odor coming from the HVAC unit. However, no one was transported to a health care facility for further treatment.
When the odor persisted, school officials made the call to send kids home for the day, according to the press release.
Venable explained the school district used the emergency option included in its automated call system to notify parents of the schedule change, meaning phone calls went to all numbers on file for each student to ensure an adult was at a child’s residence to receive the student.
The district also called day care facilities and other services which normally pick up students to inform those entities of the change.
Shelton indicated he was impressed by the district’s handling of the situation.
“Everything went really well,” said Shelton, noting school officials were helpful in moving students as his personnel and fire department personnel checked for toxins.
“Truly, I don’t think they could have done a better job,” remarked Shelton.
The district’s media release also states HVAC professionals were to be evaluating the cause of the smell throughout the remainder of the day on Thursday.
Venable noted parents would be updated regarding classes at Jones on Friday evening through an automatic call system. Parents may also view the district’s website at www.mtairy.k12.nc.us for updated information.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.