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NJ school reopens after sickening gas sends kids, staff home

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — Over 100 parents attended a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to demand answers after a gas leak caused three students and several staffers to fall ill last week at Gantner Elementary School.

The problem began last Wednesday. At first, it was believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning that led to the evacuation of the school.

Three children were sickened and were taken to the hospital. One child even fainted. The following day, several school staffers also got sick.

It was later discovered that a chemical called glycol was leaking from a heating unit. But that too has caused confusion.

“Glycol in itself and emits odor but doesn’t emit gas but if it’s burning on something, it may release noxious fumes but what was it burning on,” asked parent Robert Bednarz.

Bednarz and his wife Barbara, have two children who attend Gantner. One is in second grade, the other fourth. The couple has kept theirs kids home from school since the incident.

“They were scared the next day we send them to school and they were crying scared is it going to happen again? I came here tonight to ask answers what is the truth, is it safe now? I’m not ready for another situation like this, my kids are not ready. They are scared, they’re asking me if Mommy, what about the smoke, is it clean? You have to understand they’re all small children,” said Barbara Bednarz.

The school was even shut down Friday for air quality testing.

Students have been allowed back in class this week. But questions remain.

“I’m definitely hoping to learn more about exactly what happened what’s been done to prevent it from happening again,” said parent Bryan Duess.

Licensed teams conducted air-quality test on Friday and did not find elevated carbon monoxide levels. Parents remain concerned.

“Some children who were transported to the hospital tested positive after they had blood drawn so there was CO where’s it coming from,” asked parent Erica Duess.

The meeting started at 8 p.m. and lasted until about 11 p.m. Parents who walked out of the meeting told PIX11 school administrators acknowledge carbon monoxide was detected, but the tests are inconclusive as to the source.