Vicksburg Community Schools says air quality “normal” at elementary school where teacher got sick

Posted: 9:37 PM, Mar 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-21 21:37:42-04

VICKSBURG, Mich. — For weeks, Vicksburg Community Schools Superintendent Keevin O’Neill saw on social media people’s concerns about the air quality at Sunset Lake Elementary school, he said. A teacher there was hospitalized after getting sick earlier in the school year. On Monday he sent a letter home to parents and the community to address their concerns.

“There were no obvious signs of poor indoor air quality,” O’Neill said during a press conference on Thursday. “However a thorough investigation was conducted to rule out any hazardous environmental conditions and contaminants.”

He said that Nova Environmental conducted a day-long test on January 31 at Sunset, which included testing for mold and fungus. The visual test didn’t show any problems, he said, and the air samples had no harmful levels of contaminants.

“We want to allay any fears that the air quality is unhealthy and ensure our community and staff that Vicksburg Community Schools will do anything possible to provide a safe learning environment,” O’Neill said. “It is essential for us to rule out any unsafe conditions and to address them immediately.”

Vicksburg Community Schools took immediate action after the teacher got sick in December, he said. Once she was hospitalized, other faculty members informed O'Neill and others that the air quality in her classroom may be the source to her illness.

She's since returned to work but now remains at home per the doctor's orders. However it was her illness that reminded the staff of another recent case.

“A prior employee, earlier in the school year had similar symptoms,” said Stephen Goss, assistant superintendent. “That generated some concern that the illnesses might be linked.”

Goss said it may have actually been the year before when the other employee fell ill.

O'Neill added that a Nova representative will be at the Sunset Lake’s gymnasium beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Monday March 25 to answer questions about the tests that were conducted. The school is inviting all parents and community members out to their pubic forum from 4-6 p.m.

“With concerns, we’re concerned,” O’Neill said. “And we want to make sure to alleviate those concerns, work collaboratively with our parents, work collaboratively with our staff and with our consultants to ensure that we can rule out any possible connection between that building and illness.”