A north Nashville charter school will be closed until Thursday after 40 of its students were admitted to the hospital Monday for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Officials at Drexel Prep Academy said the school's heating system leaked fumes and the carbon monoxide detector at the school, located at 4481 Jackson Rd., began to sound.
The students' parents took them to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where doctors confirmed they had been exposed to carbon monoxide.
"It wasn't until after they got home that we were aware they had been exposed," said parent Amanda Johnson.
The children affected range in age from 5 to 9 years old.
School officials acknowledged holes in a heating system caused the carbon monoxide exposure, so the more than 200 children who attend the school were told to go to a doctor to be checked out.
"If the child needs to be admitted, the only thing that would be done to them is for them to be put on oxygen overnight," said Dr. Donna Seger, director of the Tennessee Poison Center.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and it could be fatal if left untreated.
For more information, visit the Tennessee Poison Center website or call 800-222-1222.
Carbon monoxide detectors in schools
This isn't the first time Drexel has been in the news. A Channel 4 I-Team investigation in 2011 revealed allegations the school hired unlicensed teachers and the Metro School Board put the charter school on probation.
Now, the Channel 4 I-Team once again has a lot of questions for Drexel officials and Metro Nashville Public Schools after the carbon monoxide scare.
Drexel originally placed automated calls to its parents telling them to pick up their children, after they originally believed they were sick with the flu.
However, it wasn't until Vanderbilt Children's Hospital sounded the alarm when several families brought students to the emergency room that the school realized the seriousness of the situation.
Drexel Principal Dr. Cheryl Bowman said she believes the school handled the situation properly.
"Yes I do," she said. "Right now, we have a plan in place for an evacuation of any type. We followed through with that. I think we did all the right things by contacting parents."
Drexel has carbon monoxide detectors, but they were not in the classrooms where the children got sick. The alarms sounded, but not until 2:30 p.m. - hours after the school was already evacuated for the then-suspected flu illnesses.
At other Metro schools, there are no carbon monoxide detectors at all, because Tennessee state law doesn't require them.
A Metro spokesperson said they use monitors to do random carbon monoxide checks at their schools - and school heating units are inspected annually - but it remains to be seen whether or not Metro schools will now install carbon monoxide detectors.
District officials told the Channel 4 I-Team they will discuss the issue.
Drexel's principal said, because of what happened Monday, they have already installed new carbon monoxide detectors throughout the school building for when it reopens Thursday.
Metro oversees Drexel, and district officials said they are looking into whether or not the school handled the situation properly. As for Drexel's charter status, Metro said it is too soon to say if the district will take any action against the school as they gather more information about what exactly happened.
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