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Pesticide Fumes Force School Evacuation.

Posted Jul 14 2009 12:02am
Fumes force school evacuation - Rockwell students and staff members overcome by pesticide fumes and taken to hospital By Abigail Crocker - 6/18/09

BRISTOL — Bristol Warren Regional School Department officials evacuated Rockwell Elementary School, located on Hope Street in Bristol, after eight elementary students and a school social worker were overcome by fumes entering the building at about 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. They were all transported to Rhode Island Hospital
and treated and released.

According to Superintendent Dr. Edward Mara, a pungent smelling pesticide was sprayed down the street from the school, on the corner of Hope Street and Gibson Road, and wafted into classrooms after winds kicked up. Some students started to feel nauseous and faint and were taken to Rhode Island Hospital by rescue personnel. One staff member, a male social worker, was also taken by crews to receive medical attention after fumes overcame him.

“It can cause respiratory issues. There was an adult with asthma that was affected right away,” said Dr. Mara.

Parents of the students who were taken by ambulance were alerted of the evacuation by school administration. Others found out by word of mouth.

“Parents are very technologically advanced. Some heard from police scanners and called each other to sign their kids out,” said Dr. Mara.

According to a school official, the school did not telephone all the parents of Rockwell students because both the Bristol fire and police chiefs asked the school to refrain as they felt there was no immediate danger.

Students were moved from their classrooms to the gymnasium while they waited to be picked up by their parents. Hall monitors holding clipboards to record sign outs patrolled the hallways as students ran around, some with tear-stained faces. Parents looking for information upon entering the school wore concerned looks. The bus schedule was
not changed for students who were not picked up by parents.

Kristen Placido, a parent of three Rockwell School students, was on her way to the school to help with an end of school party but she removed her children shortly after arriving. She said most of the children in the building were unharmed but visibly nervous after being evacuated outside the school and witnessing a staff member taken by

Her third-grade daughter, Alexa, said her class was told to move away from the school during recess but students could detect the odor.

“My grade was on the playground and we had to evacuate because there were fumes smelling like gas and stuff,” Alexa said. “Police made us back away from the playground and the street. There was a really bad smell.”

Theresa Medeiros was escorted by a police officer into the building to pick up her grandson who had vomited in the school.

As of 1:40 p.m., the school was empty and officials from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management were responding to the building to check the air quality in and around the school and determine what the chemical was.

At first, students were moved outside but were moved back into the building after chemicals could be smelled outside. Because of the wind direction, all side doors to the school were shut and parents were only allowed to get in through a front door.

Currently there have been no charges filed against the home owner whose property emitted the chemicals.

Friday, June 18, is the school's last day before summer vacation begins.

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