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Malfunctioning air unit clears halls at West
School goes into medical lockdown after two staff members fall ill
1web west hazmat
Several Forsyth County fire units, including a hazardous materials team, were called to West Forsyth High School on Wednesday afternoon to investigate a malfunctioning air unit. - photo by Jim Dean

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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