High levels of CO found in several individuals evacuated from Oconomowoc HS

Oconomowoc High School evacuated

OCONOMOWOC -- Officials now say Carbon Monoxide (CO) is the source that affected nearly 176 faculty and students at Oconomowoc High School on Thursday, March 22. Many of them ended up sick.

The air quality situation prompted the school district to evacuate the high school and cancel classes, as well as after-school activities, for the day. The high school will remain closed on Friday, March 23.

Officials say at about 9:15 a.m., Silver Lake Intermediate students were rehearsing for a choir concert at the Oconomowoc Arts Center, which is adjoined to the high school, and became lightheaded. Some complained of feeling suddenly ill -- and some even passed out.

Oconomowoc High School evacuated

Brad Bowen

"Teary eyes, high mucus production, difficulty breathing, lightheadedness and high blood pressure. This was seen in both adults and the youth that were evaluated," said Western Lakes Fire Chief Brad Bowen.

Sirens, hazmat suits and ambulances poured in, creating a chaotic scene Thursday morning.

"It was just crazy," said Payton O'Driscoll, Silver Lake Intermediate seventh grader.

Sixty four patients were transported in an ambulance. An additional 40 walked into the hospital and 72 were assessed at the school.

Five people total showed high CO levels, but investigators don't know where it came from.

 

"With the size of the high school having to go through and go to each of the condensers and furnaces and find out which one it potentially is a bit of a process," Chief Bowen said.

Oconomowoc High School evacuated

Initially investigators reported low levels of CO. That changed as more people were assessed. It's important to point out, the school had working CO detectors -- but they weren't going off. Chief Bowen said, with so many people coming and going -- and doors opening and closing -- that may have impacted the alarm.

All after-school activities at Oconomowoc High School have were canceled for Thursday -- including the concert that the students were preparing for. The school will also be closed on Friday, March 23.

Air quality monitoring units and additional equipment to test for chemicals will be put in place. Air monitoring will continue through the weekend.

The complete post that initially came out reads as follows:

URGENT MESSAGE: OHS & OAC EVACUATED FOR NON-VIOLENT SITUATION:

There has been an unexpected situation at OHS and the OAC this morning. This is not a situation of school violence, it is a possible air quality issue. Silver Lake Intermediate students rehearsing for a Choir Concert became lightheaded and complained of feeling suddenly ill. Emergency personnel were called to the scene, and Silver Lake and Oconomowoc High School students were evacuated from the buildings.

We have determined that students and staff should not re-enter the building until we can confirm it is safe. OHS students are being dismissed immediately, for the remainder of the day. Oconomowoc Transport is enroute to pick up students to bring them home.

Students with possessions inside the building will not be allowed to re-enter for those items.

We will communicate further details as soon as possible. Emergency personnel are inside the building now.