Further studies at Graham Mesa turn up no problems | PostIndependent.com

Further studies at Graham Mesa turn up no problems

RIFLE, Colorado – A second round of studies at Graham Mesa Elementary School have not turned up any problems with the building that could cause people to become sick. Classes will resume at the school on Monday.

“The experts could not find a thing, and we are relying on the experts,” said Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services for the Garfield Re-2 School District. “We have had everybody we can think of in that building.”

The Rifle elementary school was evacuated on Sept. 1 after 22 students and a teacher in a single classroom became ill from a still-unidentified odor. The students and teacher were treated for a variety of symptoms at Grand River or Valley View hospitals, and released later that day.

The school remained closed from Sept. 2 to 9 while three companies, in coordination with the Rifle Fire Department, Garfield County Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, evaluated the building and its mechanical systems.

“After consulting with all participating agencies, Garfield Re-2 is confident that Graham Mesa Elementary is safe to allow students and staff to return to class on Monday,” Hamilton said late Friday in a written statement.

“The safety of our students and our staff is paramount. Had any of the tests or participating agencies given us any reason for concern, Garfield Re-2 would have continued evaluating the situation and not allowed occupants in the building,” she added.

The school district released these findings from the past week of studies:

• Bighorn Consulting Engineers, mechanical engineers, carried out a complete review of the school’s mechanical system.

“In summary, the mechanical system was performing well and as expected in maintaining temperature and fresh air in the building,” Bighorn reported.

• Falcon Plumbing and Heating evaluated P-traps, floor drains, classroom hand sinks and the school’s plumbing ventilation system.

“In our professional opinion, the plumbing and mechanical system are operating correctly and as per their intended design,” Falcon reported.

• Walsh Environmental Services evaluated building air quality through multiple measures and tested for multiple compounds in an initial round of tests. The company returned this week to perform additional air sampling tests in specific areas around the building, including classrooms, and collected contact samples in classrooms from desks, supply and return grills, and coat racks.

“Based on the results of the initial fire department investigation and our indoor air quality investigation and indoor air sampling, it is Walsh’s position that at the time of the investigation, the air quality at Graham Mesa Elementary School appears to be within normal air quality concentrations,” Walsh stated in a report sent to the school district late Friday.

Garfield County Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment coordinated a symptoms summary of the medical findings from the Sept. 1 event. The state health department’s survey indicated that the students and teacher treated showed symptoms that were varied and did not reveal a specific cause.

Further reports will be posted on the Garfield Re-2 website (www.garfieldre2.k12.co.us) and parents can leave specific questions on voicemail at 665-7677 and someone will return their call with an answer as soon as possible, Hamilton said.

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