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Malfunctioning air unit clears halls at West

School goes into medical lockdown after two staff members fall ill

POSTED: February 19, 2014 2:48 p.m.
Jim Dean/

A Forsyth County firefighter suits up as a hazardous materials team prepares to go into West Forsyth High School to search for a problem in the air conditioning system that sent two staff members to the hospital.

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WEST FORSYTH — Students and staff at West Forsyth High proceeded with classes Wednesday afternoon while under a medical lockdown caused by a malfunctioning ventilation unit.

According to authorities, two teachers called the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office about 2 p.m. to report a foul smell.

School system spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said the odor was coming from what was determined to be a dehumidifier unit that had been installed at West over the Thanksgiving break.

“They don’t turn on until there’s humidity in the air, which happened today,” she said. “It emitted a smell that people described as ‘dirty socks’ into the media center.”

The two employees who were in the media center at the time complained of sickness, according to Caracciolo.

“The unit was shut down immediately,” she said. “We have maintenance waiting until school is dismissed and they’ll turn back on the unit and see if the smell is still there. It must have malfunctioned whenever it was turned on.”

As a result of the medical situation, the school was placed on a lockdown.

According to Caracciolo, the school posted the news on its website and alerted parents to the situation by email. Officials emphasized that there was no cause for alarm.

“Today we experienced an issue with an air conditioning unit at WFHS,” the statement read. “We found the problem to be a new air unit which vented an unusual smell into the 2200 and 2300 halls in the building.

“Students have been moved away until the manufacturer returns to verify the equipment is OK and the smell is gone. Students are not in any danger, but we did go into a medical lockdown to ensure student safety.”


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SplitSecondImages: February 20, 2014 12:52 p.m.

Contrary to Ms. Caracciolo's statement in this article, we never recv'd an email alert re: this incident yet we have recv'd her emails very recently about weather events and school closings. We only knew of this incident by asking our son that attends WFHS why there were helicopters flying over the school.

polentone: February 21, 2014 10:32 a.m.

I have to wonder about the policy of lockdown and keeping students in the building when there is a ventilation system malfunction causing reported illness. Wouldn't a wiser policy be to get the occupants out of the building and into fresh air?

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