CEDAR CITY — Following reports that additional people were sickened after possible exposure to carbon monoxide at Canyon View Middle School, Iron County School District officials announced on Sunday evening that students and teachers will move to remote learning for both Monday and Tuesday.

A Cedar City Fire Department command vehicle in front of Canyon View Middle School, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 20, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“School administrators are currently putting together how that will look,” Shauna Lund, the district’s communications coordinator, told Cedar City News just after 5 p.m.

“We’re putting together a way to distribute Chromebooks to students tomorrow morning, as well as breakfast and lunch so that that is not missed by our students,” Lund added. “Those details will be coming later this evening and sent to every parent of a Canyon View Middle School student.”

Also on Sunday evening, the district sent out a news release explaining that the two remote learning days will enable an independent group to test the carbon monoxide detectors that are located throughout the building, in every classroom, hallway and public area.

“This is being done as a precautionary measure, along with other testing that has been completed over the last several days,” the statement says, adding that the upcoming CO detector testing is scheduled to be carried out on Tuesday. 

Emergency vehicles in front of Canyon View Middle School, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 21, 2024 | Photo by Haven Scott, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We are going above and beyond what would normally be expected in this situation to ensure that students and staff are safe in our school,” Iron County School District Superintendent Lance Hatch said in the statement.

According to the news release, the building has been tested and cleared six times by three different entities as of Sunday, with the timeline outlined as follows:

Cedar City Fire Department responded on Thursday within 15 minutes of the carbon monoxide alarm going off in D Hall. “Small amounts” of CO were reportedly detected in that area, which is adjacent to an ongoing construction project. 
Friday morning, the Cedar City Fire Department again tested the building as school began, which included testing in the kitchen as lunch was being prepared. Classrooms were occupied by students and heating and ventilation units were running. No dangerous levels were detected in any areas.
Following reports about another possible exposure on Friday afternoon, the fire department and officials from Dominion Energy again tested the building, including heating systems, hot water heaters and kitchen appliances. The building again was cleared for occupancy.
On Saturday evening, after reports about possible exposures during basketball games, the fire department again tested the building and found no traces of harmful gasses.
Sunday, the Utah National Guard’s 85th Civil Support Team was called to assist with the investigation. According to the statement, 85th has equipment with advanced capabilities that identify hazardous materials down to the parts per billion level.

“No traces of harmful gases were found,” the statement adds, noting that the specialized equipment checks for over 150,000 particulates that could be considered harmful to humans.

“Our job is to assist our local first responders in ensuring the public is safe. We have a robust complement of HAZMAT technicians and highly specialized equipment that is designed for situations just like this,” Lieutenant Colonel Rob Dent, commander of the 85th, was quoted as saying in the district’s statement.

The hyperbaric chamber at St. George Regional Hospital, St. George, Utah, Jan. 20, 2024 | Reader submitted photo, St. George News

Lund noted that the National Guard team consisted of eight trained specialists who spent four hours conducting three different series of tests.

“They have tested with their equipment the water heaters, heating and ventilation units,” Lund said. “They have tested the kitchen equipment. And in all of those areas, the only readings that came back higher than normal were on Thursday in the that area adjacent to the construction.”

Even so, Cedar City News has been contacted by multiple residents who said their child or relative was among those who required medical treatment at Cedar City Hospital or St. George Regional Hospital, or both.

Kelly, the mother of a Canyon View Middle School student who asked that her last name not be used, told Cedar City her daughter stayed home on Wednesday and Thursday due to illness that included headache and nausea.

“I just thought she had the flu bug, but after talking to several parents we believe the exposure has been there for a while,” Kelly said. “And that the symptoms she had on Wednesday and Thursday were due to carbon monoxide.”

“She went back to school Friday and when I picked her up she was not herself at all,” she added. “It was scary. I thought she had a stroke at first, and then I thought she was overdosing on something but turns out those are all symptoms of carbon monoxide.”

“The school didn’t say to look for those things. so I didn’t put two and two together until her blood work came back and she had high levels of CO in her blood,” added Kelly.

Kelly spoke with Cedar City News via phone on Sunday just as her daughter was finishing up a two-hour treatment session inside the hyperbaric chamber at St,. George Regional, which can hold up to eight people at a time.

Emergency vehicles in front of Canyon View Middle School, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 21, 2024 | Photo by Haven Scott, St. George News / Cedar City News

It was her daughter’s second such session, Kelly said, adding that she is aware of multiple such sessions that have taken place over the past few days, with both students and adults receiving treatment.

“The thing is, I don’t really blame the schools, because the schools can only go by what they’re told,” she added. “The schools are not the experts, right? They employ the experts to tell them. They’re only going by the information they were given.”

Lund said district officials have been in touch with the parents whose children have been taken for medical treatment.

“Every single parent that we’re aware of that has taken a kid and gone down to the hyperbaric chamber or into the emergency room, the school has made contact with them,” Lund added. “Some did happen over the weekend, so some of that communication may go out on Monday, as we learn of those names. The emergency room isn’t going to give us a list of names, because that would be a HIPAA violation. But we have reached out to all the parents that we know of, of students that were tested on Thursday as well as Friday and let them know to come in to the district office to fill out some information.”

Lund said parents and guardians of Canyon View Middle School students will continue to be notified of any new developments, including via the district’s automated alert system, email and text message.

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