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Carbon Monoxide Leak Inside Atlanta School Prompts Evacuations And Investigation

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An investigation is underway to determine what caused a carbon monoxide leak inside an Atlanta public school. The leak forced 44 students and 7 adults to be rushed to the hospital from Finch Elementary School in Southwest Atlanta. APS officials say no one was seriously injured by the leak.

In a briefing with reporters this afternoon, Atlanta Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis said he received reports early this morning of students and faculty at Finch becoming dizzy and ill. The initial 911 call came in about 8:45 this morning. The Atlanta Fire Department responded to a report of persons down at Finch. When crews arrived, they detected high levels of poisonous gas.

“They used an air monitor device and the air monitor device detected near the furnace,” said Atlanta Fire Department spokeswoman Capt. Marian McDaniel. She said the level of carbon monoxide, 1,700 parts per million, was unusually high.

“As far as Atlanta Fire is concerned, that’s one of the highest readings,” said McDaniel.

The affected students and parents were checked out at Hughes Spalding Children Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital. Also, 450 students were sent from Finch to nearby Brown Middle School until school ended at 2:30 p.m.

“We moved approximately 500 students were transported safely to Brown Middle School,” said Davis.

As part of a contingency plan, Davis said APS used robo-calls, Finch’s website and social media to alert parents of the emergency. Davis said parents were also told how they could connect with their students either before the end of school or after school.

Meanwhile, an investigation into the cause of the leak has begun. The school system suspects the problem stems from Finch’s boiler room. 

APS Chief Operating Officer Larry Hoskins said a check from a state certified inspector was approved last year.

“The last inspection was done sometime in 2011 and I do know that the next inspection should occur somewhere in 2013,” said Hoskins.

Finch Elementary has fire alarms but no carbon monoxide detectors. The same is true for all APS schools.

“Yes, we’ve already had that discussion on whether we should put them in the schools,” said Davis.

Atlanta Fire spokeswoman Capt. McDaniel said Georgia does not require carbon monoxide detectors in schools.

APS COO Hoskins said the students and adults who went to the hospital should be released sometime today. Emergency crews will determine if Finch is safe enough for school tomorrow.