Ten people — eight students and two adults — were hospitalized Wednesday after becoming ill from a carbon-monoxide leak at Longfellow Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department said a leak in one of the building’s two boilers, which are used to heat the school, was the culprit of the CO leak.
Six of the children and both adults were transported to area hospitals directly from Longfellow Elementary.
KCFD first-responders were called to Manual Career Tech Center — where the remaining students, faculty and staff were taken — shortly before 11:45 a.m. to re-examine some of the children.
Assistant Fire Chief Jimmy Walker said the six children exhibiting symptoms at Longfellow Elementary were transported to Children’s Mercy Hospital and the two adults were transported to University Health Truman Medical Center.
Two more students were transported to the hospital from Manual Tech, but their condition was not believed to be serious and all students sent to the school had already been checked and cleared by KCFD medical personnel at Longfellow Elementary, according to Walker.
It’s unclear to which hospital those students were transported, but it brought the total number of students and adults from Longfellow Elementary who have now been transported to the hospital for evaluation to 10.
Kansas City Fire Department spokesperson Jimmy Walker
The KCFD medical director evaluated several other students at Manual Tech, but determined they did not need to go to the hospital.
Walker said KCFD crews responded to Longfellow, which is located at 2830 Holmes St., around 9:30 a.m. after receiving a call that several children in the building had become ill.
The CO monitors firefighters used at the scene peak at 2,000 parts per million and were maxed out, indicating “extremely high levels of carbon monoxide,” Walker said.
He commended KCPS personnel for their quick action to evacuate the building.
“Once we got them outside, we started treating multiple patients on the scene,” Walker said.
While CO poisoning can be lethal, responders “got them out of the building quick enough,” he said
The students and staff who were complaining of nausea and other symptoms were transported to area hospitals, while the rest of the students, faculty and staff were bussed to Manual Tech.
Some children are being loaded into ambulances. We’re working to learn where they are being taken to.
The elementary is located just blocks from Children’s Mercy. pic.twitter.com/0obeFk0Iqf
— Abby Dodge (@Abby_OnAir) October 19, 2022
The district sent text messages and emails to the parents of all Longfellow Elementary students about the situation.
Families are welcome to pick up their students at Manual Tech.
Students whose families cannot pick them up will be allowed to remain at Manual Tech throughout the school day and the district will have counselors on site to help any children who are traumatized.
KCPS said “every child was checked” and the district will work with the fire department “to make sure this building is safe.”
KCPS Spokesperson addresses carbon monoxide leak at Longfellow Elementary
A spokesperson for KCPS said the district had its heating systems, including the boilers at Longfellow Elementary, checked last week before turning them on and no problem was detected by contractors.
“These older facilities, it just happens,” Walker said. “But I can’t commend the school district staff enough for getting the kids outside.”
KCFD is ventilating the school to clear the carbon monoxide and will have Spire shut off natural gas to any damaged or leaking system.
KCPS will then bring in a contractor to perform any needed repairs.
“My message to the parents of this community is be thankful for this staff and all that they did,” Walker said.
The leak affected the entire building, according to Walker, who said students and staff will not be allowed to return to the school today.
The building’s usability Thursday and moving forward will depend on how quickly repairs can be made to the building.
Walker encouraged parents of Longfellow Elementary students who were exposed to the CO leak to monitor for symptoms of CO poisoning. If a child is lethargic, vomiting or has no appetite, parents may want to have a pediatrician check them out just to be safe.
“We always say it’s the silent killer, and it really is,” said Walker, who said the only protection for families is to have CO detectors installed in their home.
He also reminded Kansas Citians to check the batteries in their smoke detectors.
Students were outside for roughly 30 to 40 minutes before they were bussed to Manual Tech. KCPS staff was able to provide blankets to help keep children warm.
Missouri does not require public schools to have CO monitors in its buildings.
In fact, Connecticut, Maine, California, Maryland and Illinois are the only states that require CO monitors in school buildings, according to a February 2020 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
It’s unclear if KCPS has a policy regarding CO monitors in district buildings.
KCPS will hold school for Longfellow Elementary students on Thursday at Manual Career and Technical Center for those who wish to attend. Bus routes will run as normal.