Middle schoolers sent home over suspected gas leak; Evacuation is fourth in a week in Crofton; inspection finds nothing


Crofton Middle School students were sent home early yesterday after school officials suspected there was another gas leak in the building.

Students were dismissed about 10: 15 a.m., shortly before workers from the school maintenance division, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the state fire marshal's office determined there was no leak. It was the fourth time in two weeks that students had been evacuated because of fumes.

School officials said maintenance workers had replaced the motor on a faulty heating unit that led to evacuations last week. When they started the unit about 9: 30 a.m. yesterday, the motor produced a "combustion odor," said Ed Almes, head of maintenance for the county schools.

"There were some fumes from that heat in that immediate area," he said. "Somebody smelled it, said, 'Well, we need to call the fire department.' "

With students gone, officials from BGE swept the building for gas and carbon monoxide fumes and checked the air quality. They did not detect any problems, Almes said.

Almes said the strobe lights on the school's fire alarm, for which a fire inspector issued the school a violation notice, had been replaced Monday.

Students were evacuated twice Jan. 26 because of fumes. Fire inspectors opened an investigation into the school's evacuation policy because students were still in the building when the first fire units arrived. Principal Richard Berzinski used the public address system instead of the fire alarm.

Students were evacuated Friday because of another leak. Officials shut down one of the school's heaters, and repairs were being made yesterday.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham will send a letter to parents today clarifying what happened at the school and what the school did about it.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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