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Classes resume in Syosset, but parent upset after carbon monoxide scare

Carbon monoxide was detected this week in an

Carbon monoxide was detected this week in an elementary school in the Syosset school district. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The parent of a South Grove Elementary student is accusing the Syosset school district of negligence after tests, he said, showed his daughter had an elevated level of carbon monoxide in her blood.

Carbon monoxide was detected at the school on Wednesday, school officials said. Students returned to classes Friday after the Syosset Central School District closed Thursday to check all of its 11 school buildings.

On Friday, William Mendez said his 8-year-old daughter fainted in school Wednesday and that he and his wife took her to Syosset Hospital, where blood tests revealed the high level of carbon monoxide in her blood.

Mendez, 38, a sergeant in the New York Police Department, said the school was negligent in delaying notifying parents of the leak and put students, including his, at risk. 

"I feel they are not taking the proper steps in caring for our kids," he said.

According to the district's website, carbon monoxide was detected Wednesday at South Grove, and students were relocated to the South Grove Annex. School officials said the cause of the carbon monoxide was the rooftop HVAC units that service the gymnasium. "The units were turned off immediately and repaired and the air quality returned to normal," according to the notice on the website.

Mendez said his daughter, who is in the third grade, was participating in a game in the gym where she was standing like a wax figure in a wax museum. While in the gym, she fainted, Mendez said, and went to the school nurse. He said school officials left a voicemail on his wife's phone that his daughter was not feeling well but that she was sent back to class. He said he repeatedly tried to reach the school while he was at work in Brooklyn but did not hear from the district about the carbon monoxide leak until hours later.

District Superintendent Tom Rogers on Friday said the district sent notification of the incident to parents by email, but “it appears that communication was not universally effective, and we are actively working to address this concern.” He said the district had been given the all clear by the local fire department to allow students to remain in school.

An email from the school principal sent at 1:08 p.m. Wednesday stated: "A few individuals reported a faint odor in the South Grove gym. The area around the gym was cleared and air quality testing was conducted at both South Grove and the Annex. The tests produced a positive indication for Carbon Monoxide in the South Grove gym."

Mendez said his wife picked up their daughter before school ended. "Still at that point they did not mention the possibility of carbon monoxide exposure," Mendez said.

Mendez said the couple took their daughter to her pediatrician, then learned about the leak. They decided to take their child to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment. She received an oxygen treatment at the hospital, he said.

Mendez also said he has heard from other parents who said their children have complained of headaches.

“The health and safety of our students and staff is the first priority of the district. We are committed to providing a safe environment for all,” Rogers said, noting that the district has undertaken an action plan to review what happened and to examine all school facilities.

South Grove Elementary on Colony Lane has about 410 students in grades K-5, according to the state Education Department. The school district as a whole has 6,300 students.

School officials said the district’s architectural firm reviewed the placement of each carbon monoxide sensor throughout the buildings and installed additional devices Thursday. Air quality testing was performed by an independent environmental engineering firm and showed “no elevated levels of carbon monoxide in any of our buildings,” according to the statement.

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