Local News

Mystery in Air at Cary School

Posted September 14, 2007

— Wake County school administrators worked Friday to determine what caused nine elementary school students to go home Thursday complaining of headaches.

A fifth-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School complained of a funny smell in her regular classroom Thursday, and nine students in the class said they felt sick and were taken home early by their parents, officials said.

"They said they had headaches, symptoms like that, were sleepy," Oak Grove Elementary Principal Gail Turner said.

Turner and other school administrators moved the rest of the students out of the classroom to the school media center and then to a temporary classroom while the smell was checked out.

"Those odors could be from pets, they could be from perfumes, or could be from mold or mildew," Wake County Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Mike Burriss said.

The Wake County Health Department found mold in three classrooms at the school last year, so the district brought in a consultant Friday to test the air in the fifth-grade classroom.

The test results showed normal levels of airborne mold, and no visible mold growth was seen, officials said.

"We've looked at where water infiltration may be occurring, if it's in a carpet or a doorway or under a window. We've also looked at the air-conditioning unit," Burriss said.

District maintenance staff will clean air conditioning units at Oak Grove Elementary this weekend, he said.

District administrators receive reports of funny smells in schools about once or twice a month, but only once or twice a year do those calls require serious repair, Burriss said.

"This is a routine process for us," he said.

The classroom likely would be reopened Monday, but the district will continue to monitor the situation, he said. Health department officials said they would test the school again next week.

Parent Ron Veal said he was relieved to hear the district was thoroughly checking things out.

"I hope that they test as necessary," Veal said.


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  • JonahB Sep 16, 2007

    If the ventilation system uses air from the outside, then perhaps if a school bus or maintenance truck was parked beside the outside air vent, then maybe it was carbon monoxide poisoning. Just an idea.

  • 1WakeCitizen Sep 16, 2007

    Parents who have children at Penny Road elementary need to know that there is large amounts of MOLD in 2 of their mobile units on campus. Administrators have known for some time and would not take this seriously. You better raise H*ll and protect your children!!!

  • DeaconBlues Sep 15, 2007

    I remeber when the same thing happened at Adams Elementary when I was in the 5th grade back in 1992. Students and teachers were getting bad headaches and all, it made the news. It turned out they had a severe mold problem in the HVAC system.

  • oldrebel Sep 15, 2007

    LOL.."beige paint"...totally on point.

  • gopanthers Sep 15, 2007

    IfByWhiskey - LMAO - That was great!

  • IfByWhiskey-a-go-go Sep 15, 2007

    It's beige paint.

  • angora Sep 14, 2007

    madbiker, you are too funny!

    The problem was the students were pregnant and mistook patchouli oil being used as perfume for insecticide. Happens all the time. They freaked thinking their babies would be deformed and called the law. Such things happen in Cary.

  • MadBiker Sep 14, 2007

    Did the teacher eat Mexican food the night before???


  • Skepticghoul Sep 14, 2007

    Most likely collective hysteria. It's quite common in schools. One kid "feels funny" then the idea spreads to others. From the Skeptical Inquirer:


  • mrtwinturbo Sep 14, 2007

    Oh wait this was in Cary, the town that will put you to sleep anyway, if you can find you way around town without any signs,

    I'd like to give them a sign!!