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Georgia high school did not tell parents, fire chief of gas leak | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


JONES COUNTY, Ga. — A methane gas leak inside a Jones County High School classroom made several students sick and forced school officials to clear part of the building.

That’s according to emails obtained by 13WMAZ from the school district through an open-records request.

But more than a week later, the district hasn’t notified parents about the health risk or notified county public-safety officials.

13WMAZ reached out to Jones County’s district safety director, Raymond Braziel. He did not return our phone calls.

Reached by phone, Principal Dennis Woolfolk declined comment.

The leak reportedly happened Sept. 15 in an honors chemistry class.

A parent told 13WMAZ that the chemistry teacher left methane flowing from a Bunsen burner from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning.
According to medical websites, high levels of methane gas can cause slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache.

The gas is also highly explosive.

The parent told 13WMAZ that on Sept. 15, several students in a first-period chemistry class became sick and reported to the school’s main office. They say principal Woolfolk told second-period students to leave the classroom and cleared three hallways at the high school.

Jones County schools’ response to 13WMAZ’s records request redacted the names of parents who complained about the gas leak and the school’s response.
But they show that several parents reached out to the principal about health and safety concerns.

One mother wrote, “I knew my daughter had an intense headache from inhaling the fumes for most of the class.”

She wrote, “There are already questions from others about the leak and smell of gas continuing to permeate the hall. Please especially let parents know the exposure time their children faced, as that is vital to medical care, should they need it.”

A second parent told Woolfolk that the teacher should have caught the problem sooner: “If she could smell gas, there was a problem and the students shouldn’t have been allowed in the classroom. This could have ended badly. Thank God, there wasn’t an explosion.”

And a third parent wrote to the principal about her son: “”He is asthmatic, and the exposure to the hazardous levels of natural gas in this class resulted in his inability to breathe properly, throwing him into a severe asthma attack. His oxygen level reached a dangerous low.”

Quick response by a school nurse prevented more serious problems for the boy, the parent wrote.

By email, Woolfolk assured parents that school officials were dealing with the episode.

“I assure you that the safety of all the students is our highest priority,” he wrote, in part, to one. “This issue was resolved, and accountability and safety measures will be addressed.”

To another parent, he wrote, “”My immediate plan is to speak with all staff members during their planning periods on Monday about this situation and the importance of recognizing hazardous situations, reporting them, and more than anything getting students to an immediate safe location.”

13WMAZ asked the school district whether county health and safety officials were notified.
But the records released by the schools don’t show that any outside agencies were called in.

And Don Graham, the county’s fire chief and emergency management director, said he was not aware of the gas leak until contacted by 13WMAZ last week.
He said fire crews would have cleared gas from the building and assisted sick students.

The school also never notified parents about the leak or about possible health risks to students.

But on Sept. 19, four days after the leak, Woolfolk sent a “OneCall” automated message to parents of chemistry students.

It said: “Dear Parents: This one call is to inform you that your child will be receiving a new teacher for Honors Chemistry at Jones County High School. We will be hiring a very highly qualified successful teacher in the next few days. We know there have been concerns regarding issues with this course, but I can assure you that we hold your child’s safety and education in the highest regard.”

School officials declined to answer questions about the teacher’s job status. But she is no longer listed on the Jones County High School website.

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