A carbon monoxide leak from a burned-out boiler gasket caused the evacuation of Betsy Ross School on Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. Teachers and staff gathered the kindergarten through third-grade students and bused them to Forest Park Middle School, according to a statement released by Betsy Ross Principal William J. Milnamow. The school is located at 1315 Marengo Ave.

“At no time were students exposed to any dangerous levels of carbon monoxide,” Milnamow said.

While waiting for a bus, students were placed in the ventilated gym, which is attached to a separate heating unit, he said.

The fire department was summoned to the scene after the custodian reported a strange odor in the building around 9 a.m., according to a fire department report.

Readings reached 60 parts per million of carbon monoxide in the basement, where the leak was located, the fire department’s report said. On the upper floors, readings reached 30 ppm. Windows on the first and second floors were opened.

The air in the gym was initially measured at 20 ppm, but dropped to zero after a few minutes, according to the fire department.

Fire Chief Steve Glinke said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes a “permissible exposure limit (PEL)” at 50 ppm in industrial settings as an average permissible over eight hours.

“Levels in the classroom areas were well under the OSHA standard,” Glinke said. “No students, staff or faculty had any CO related complaints.”

“The source was quickly identified and all gas-fired appliances were shut down,” said Forest Park Fire Chief Steve Glinke.  “The fact that the building had no heat strongly influenced the decision to evacuate.”

The boiler was repaired and fire personnel and Nicor declared the building safe around 11:30 a.m. The students and staff were back by 12:30 p.m. and classes resumed.

Children ate lunch at the middle school.

“A special thanks should go out to Ed’s Way and Dinico’s for taking the extra effort to provide lunch for our students during the evacuation on such short notice,” Milnamow said.

Milnamow said his staff was complimented by the firefighters and Nicor employees for “how well things were handled at Betsy Ross.”


Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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