Carbon monoxide forces evacuation of Brighton Park elementary school

CHICAGO (STMW) - Three teachers were taken to hospitals “as a precaution” after a carbon monoxide leak led to the evacuation of  Southwest Side elementary school on Friday morning.

It was the second such incident at a CPS school in three weeks.

Carbon monoxide was detected before school started Friday at Shields Elementary at 4250 S. Rockwell in Brighton Park, according to a statement from Chicago Public Schools spokesperson Emily Bittne.

Students had not yet arrived, but when they did, they were sent to the school’s annex for the rest of the day, Bittne said.

Firefighters responded to the school and found elevated levels of carbon monoxide at 80 ppm in the main building, according to Fire Media Affairs director Larry Langford. Three teachers were treated at the scene and taken to hospitals as a precaution.

Langford commended the staff at the school for their “fast work” at keeping the kids out and calling the fire department right away.

A preliminary analysis indicated the carbon monoxide that was vented out of the boiler room re-entered the school through an improperly opened door, creating a downdraft. CPS is evaluating the situation to determine safeguards to prevent the situation from re-occurring.

“The safety of students and staff is our top priority, which is why we are installing an additional 5,000 carbon monoxide detectors in schools throughout the city,” Bittne said.

Exactly three weeks ago, more than 70 students were taken to hospitals from Prussing Elementary in the Northwest Side Jefferson Park neighborhood after a carbon monoxide leak.

Authorities were called about 9:30 a.m. to the school at 4650 N. Menard, police and fire officials said.

Fire crews with carbon monoxide readers found high levels of the gas inside the school, which was then evacuated. A total of 71 children and seven adults were taken to hospitals, according to Fire Media. All were suffering non-life threatening illnesses with symptoms including dizziness, nausea and abdominal pain.

The school’s boiler, last inspected in July, appeared to be the cause of the leak, according to CPS, which is now facing multiple lawsuits over the incident and public pressure to replace the boiler.