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Illnesses Force Evacuation of Coleytown Middle School

UPDATE Staff members feeling ill at Coleytown Middle School today forced evacuation of the school, school authorities said.

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“Several staff members reported shortness of breath and dizziness.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Firefighters initially suspected carbon monoxide issues but readings taken in school—site of numerous mold-related issues recently—were negative.

The alarm began sounding shortly after 9:30 a.m. Students and staff were readmitted about 10 a.m., according to witnesses.

A school email sent almost two hours later to parents said: “At approximately 9:35 a.m. this morning several staff members reported shortness of breath and dizziness.

“At that time the Westport Fire Department and EMS were contacted. It was recommended by the WFD that we evacuate the building.

“The building was checked for CO and nine staff members and one student were evaluated and cleared by EMS.

“The building was cleared after a thorough examination by the WFD. Staff and students returned to their classrooms and a regular schedule was resumed.

“Dr. (Colleen) Palmer, Superintendent, was on site and the District Medical Advisor and Westport/Weston Health Department were consulted. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Parents were advised to call 203 341-1610 with any questions.

A number of parents complained on social media that they learned from news media about the evacuations without any initial word from the schools.

Palmer scheduled an information session for parents at the school on Thursday at 7 p.m.

At tonight’s Board of Education meeting, Palmer said a mechanical belt on a machine being used in dehumidifying efforts failed at the school on Friday, causing a burning odor,

Circulating fans cleared the odor, she said, only to have a repeat of the problem on Saturday.

She said the health complaints made by staff members and one student at the school today were not consistent with mold issues.

Another school official, Sue Levasseur, the district’s supervisor of health services, said after the students returned to classes, “a good number” of those in the school reported to the nurse’s office complaining of symptoms not associated with mold.

These included headaches, nausea, and dizziness, she said. One student complained of “watery eyes.”

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