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MN School Evacuated After Possible CO Poisoning

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SPRINGFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) – Students were evacuated from a school in Springfield, Minn. Thursday morning after a number of people were sickened with what may have been carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Springfield School District’s website confirmed that Springfield Public School was being closed for the day, and students were taken to a nearby community center.

Third-grader Emma Pingeon says she witnessed some students vomiting during a morning practice for a choir concert.

“We all started to shake because we were really scared and they were fainting and puking,” Pingeon said.

Paul Coffland’s 10-year-old son, James, was taken by ambulance to Springfield’s Mayo Clinic Health System after hyperventilating during choir.

“He was near incoherent when I got to him,” Coffland said. “As far as being able to speak, he was extremely disoriented.”

The 4th grader had blood taken for testing, was placed on oxygen for two and a half hours and had an IV. Despite the scare, Coffland says he was very impressed with the hospital, and how quickly and thoroughly they cared for his son and the others from the school.

He takes issue, however, with school officials for being unclear as to whether CO was the culprit.

“I don’t know why they’d be so afraid to have that known. I mean, if something went wrong with their furnace or something malfunctioned, there could be carbon monoxide in the building,” Coffland said. “You know, close the building down, get it fixed and when it’s ready, you know, bring the kids back.”

He says his son is apprehensive about returning to that building.

“It scared him,” Coffland said. “I think he’s a little nervous about going back to that building, but he’ll be fine.”

Dr. Jennifer White from Mayo Clinic Health System says the hospital evaluated and released 30 patients for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Everyone was back home by early Thursday night.

Students that weren’t sick were evacuated to the Springfield Community Center. Gigi Blissk, the center’s director, says her three children were among the evacuated.

“I think they did a phenomenal job. The superintendent and the principal, they were here with the faculty,” Bliss said. “It is a small community, so everybody knows everybody. And they did a great job.”

At the school, first responders tested for carbon monoxide, but initial tests turned out negative. District Superintendent Keith Kottke says additional tests are being conducted to try and determine what caused the incident.

“We still want to pull together some intelligence to see what the root cause may be,” Kottke said.

The decision whether to have school will be made later Thursday night, and families will be notified through phone calls and messaging systems.

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