Local News

Mystery in Air at Cary School

Posted September 14, 2007 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated September 14, 2007 7:05 p.m. EDT

— 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.