Cedar City middle school to switch to online learning for carbon monoxide detector testing
Jan 21, 2024, 6:40 PM | Updated: Jan 22, 2024, 6:35 am
CEDAR CITY — Canyon View Middle School will switch to online learning on Monday and Tuesday while the school’s carbon monoxide detectors are tested by an independent group, the Iron County School District announced on Sunday.
The announcement came following multiple reports of children and staff being sick and treated for elevated levels of carbon monoxide. The district said the building had been tested and cleared multiple times already.
Parent Brandon Nowland said he and many other families still have questions about what caused the carbon monoxide exposure that they said made their children ill.
“He was going to miss something with his friends, and he said, ‘Dad, I don’t really feel good, I feel sick to my stomach again, I’ve got a headache and all those things,’ and I’m like yeah, something’s wrong with him,” Nowland said.
He said the school sent families a message Thursday about an exhaust-fume-like smell that resulted in an evacuation. Officials gave the all-clear but then alerted parents that 25 people had above-normal carbon monoxide levels, and were referred to see a doctor.
The district released a timeline that stated testing done by the Cedar City Fire Department found small amounts of carbon dioxide in D Hall. They stated it was near a remodeling project.
Nowland said his son became ill and was treated in a hyperbaric chamber in St. George. That’s where he said he saw other students and staff from the school.
“There’s a little bit more weight put on that, where we’re like, OK there’s other kids here with their parent,” Nowland said.
More messages said a cause hadn’t been identified and the fire department and gas company had cleared the building.
“Nobody’s answering that question of where, how everything’s been contaminated, how it’s gotten in,” Nowland said.
According to the district’s testing timeline, the building was cleared six times by three different entities. Officials said on Saturday night, the fire department retested the building “after reports about possible exposures during the basketball games.”
“With some of those school district messages, it’s kind of like, ‘supposed exposures,’ well, if they were supposed, we wouldn’t be down here doing this,” Nowland said. “Why would we waste our time?”
The district said even a search by the Utah National Guard didn’t find evidence of harmful gases.
The district’s statement said detectors for carbon monoxide are located in every classroom, hallway and other public areas at the school.
Classes will be held remotely on Monday and Tuesday. Detector testing is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning.
“If you can answer the questions satisfactorily and we have evidence like, here was the leak and we’ve taken care of it, then I’m going to feel a little bit better about sending my kid back, ” Nowland said. “But I could really care less about the next two days. I feel like that’s a way to pacify parents and say, ‘Look we’re doing everything we can.'”
Nowland said he needs to know what caused his son’s illness before he considers sending him back to school.
“During these next two days, what are they going to do to figure out what the problem is? Or are they just going to go through and say, ‘No, levels look good, we’ve done our due diligence, we’ve done you guys a favor, everyone come back to school,'” he said.
According to the school’s website, the test is being performed as a precautionary measure.
“We are going above and beyond what would normally be expected in this situation to ensure that students and staff are safe in our school,” said Dr. Lance Hatch, superintendent for Iron County School District, on the school’s website.
According to the website, the building has been ruled safe for occupancy six times by three different entities, including the Cedar City Fire Department, the Utah National Guard’s 85th Civil Support Team and Dominion Energy. Those tests were conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The school website says the 85th Civil Support Team conducted three tests on Sunday over a four-hour period and found no harmful tests.
“Our job is to assist our local first responders in ensuring the public is safe. We have a robust complement of HAZMAT technicians and highly specialized equipment that is designed for situations just like this,” said Lt. Col. Rob Dent, commander of the 85th.