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Around 10:16 a.m. Thursday, first responders were called to the school in reference to an unconscious child in the nurse’s office, reported Beaumont Police Community Relations Officer Carol Riley. Upon arrival, first responders determined there was a possible gas leak causing children to exhibit signs of carbon monoxide exposure. Fire investigators got readings that showed elevated levels of carbon monoxide, Riley said.

“The principal said we had to stay where we are and that the sixth-graders had to evacuate out of the sixth-grade hall,” Dickinson said. “And then he said stay in your rooms until further notice and then announced that we all had to go into the gym.”

Students and faculty were evacuated to safe areas, Riley said. All students that were not exhibiting symptoms were transported by bus to West Brook High School’s Performing Arts Center. Parents were notified via Beaumont ISD’s phone messaging system.

According to Riley, numerous students and faculty members reported exposure symptoms such as nausea and headaches. All students and faculty members that were exhibiting these symptoms were transported to St. Elizabeth and Baptist hospitals, which were notified and activated their emergency protocols.

Students and faculty were triaged on the buses they arrived on at Baptist Hospital and brought inside the ER as needed. At St. Elizabeth, patients came in though both EMS and walk in, said Danielle Pardue, spokesperson for Christus Hospital – St. Elizabeth. St. Elizabeth treated 68 patients from the school for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, she said.

Not to be confused with carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide — or CO — is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas. Carbon dioxide, in contrast, is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning carbon and organic compounds and by respiration.

According to spokesperson for Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas Mary Poole, Baptist treated a total of 54 patients from Marshall for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. There were no reports of any serious or fatal injuries, said Robert Calvert, chief operations officer for BISD, during a press conference at Marshall Middle School Monday, Feb. 1.

Calvert said the state’s chief boiler inspector arrived on Thursday evening to examine the facility and equipment and find the source of the problem. The cause of the carbon monoxide leak was identified as a failed gasket on a boiler in the primary maintenance room.

The defective boiler was shut down and a temporary boiler, located outside of the building, is now operating in its place, Calvert said. The temporary boiler passed all required inspections and air quality was checked Sunday and again on Monday morning before school, Calvert said. The fire marshal also visited the school on Sunday.

According to Calvert, the district is also considering putting CO monitors and combustible gas detectors in not just Marshall Middle School but all BISD schools. The district is meeting with Honeywell, a manufacturer of these monitors, to discuss pricing, he said.

“The estimates are anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 a school, but that also depends on how many monitors you put in and how you tie it in,” Calvert said. “We would expect everything to be tied into our fire system and automatic notification system, so that if there is a CO emission like this one, the boilers would shut down and stop the risk. We’re also looking at ventilation products. We’re looking at everything.”

“Our children are our most important assets. As a father who has raised six children, this is very discouraging and upsetting,” Calvert related. “If it had been me and one of my kids, I would want the district to do everything possible to protect my children and that’s what we are going to do.”