5 students treated at hospital

The Baltimore Sun

Five Parkville Middle School students were sent to the hospital yesterday afternoon with mild respiratory distress, and the campus of 1,100 students was evacuated for more than an hour while fire crews investigated possible contamination, officials said.

The students were treated at Franklin Square Hospital Center and were expected to be released yesterday, said school Principal Murray G. Parker.

Fire officials and investigators with the Maryland Department of the Environment conducted a room-by-room search of the school building and found no evidence of gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning or other contaminants, according to authorities.

At about 1:15 p.m., paramedics responded to reports that two students had trouble breathing, said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Fire Department.

"Within a matter of minutes, other students complained of similar symptoms," she said.

In all, 15 students were evaluated at the scene for respiratory troubles. Authorities are investigating the cause of the illnesses, which occurred shortly after lunch.

Dejeune Bell, 14, was taking an eighth-grade Spanish test when the fire alarm went off. Outside, she saw one of her friends being treated in an ambulance and "crying because she couldn't breathe," said Dejeune. "I got scared and stuff."

Joanna Stephens, president of the school's Parent Teacher Association, praised campus officials for maintaining order. "Everything was handled perfectly, as far as I could see," said Stephens, whose daughter is a Parkville sixth-grader.

Parker said that classes will reconvene Monday and that he has been assured by officials that the school building is safe.

"I'm extremely proud of my kids," Parker said. "They really conducted themselves with maturity and respect for each other."


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