Medics called to Pinewood Elementary after students complain of light-headedness

Baltimore County emergency crews responded to Pinewood Elementary in Timonium Thursday afternoon after seventeen students complained of feeling ill and light-headed in the school's gymnasium.

Parents said Thursday evening that Principal Franchesca Brown recorded an automated phone message sent to parents that said the students were simply overheated, and that school would be back in session Friday.

At 3:21 p.m. Thursday, several emergency units and police were called to the school after the students complained of feeling light-headed "like they were going to pass out," Julia Hardgrove, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman, said.

Eight students were taken to area hospitals for treatment, while six others refused treatment and went home with their parents, Cpt. Bruce Schultz, a fire department spokesman, said.

The students were in the cafeteria, where BCPS spokesman Mychael Dickerson said the air circulator was not working, when a few of them told their teacher they were feeling ill. Schultz said there was a "domino effect," and other students began feeling ill.  

Emergency crews also responded to Padonia Park Swim Club, where three Pinewood students attending an after-school program also complained of feeling ill. Those students refused treatment and went home with parents as well, Schultz said.

Amy Halushka, a parent of two Pinewood Elementary students, was waiting to pick up her daughters after school when a school employee came outside to tell parents to move their cars to allow emergency vehicles to get in.

Halushka's mind turned to typical elementary school problems like sickness or a playground injury, but "then there were more and more vehicles coming," she said.

"We didn't know what was happening," Halushka said.

Her daughter, Kate, who is in fifth grade, said the fourth-grade chorus was practicing in the cafeteria at the time, and students emerged from the room in tears as the school was being evacuated.

About an hour after the call was made to police, parents were still unclear about what had happened or what caused the incident.

Students in the school's after-care program told their parents the school's assistant principal told them to leave the building in an orderly manner.

Some Pinewood parents said they received an automated phone call around 4:50 p.m. stating that the schools end-of-year picnic, which was scheduled for 5:30 p.m, was canceled.

One parent expressed concern that no call was made sooner.

"I would figure they would have called all the people in after school care," Stewart Crotty said as he picked up his son, Chase, a first-grader at Pinewood.

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