Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


High levels of CO2, medical emergencies prompt eLearning days at Elem.

A 7 year old boy reading, laying on his parents bed

Photo: Catherine Delahaye / DigitalVision / Getty Images

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is working to make sure it’s safe for students to return to Whitesides Elementary School after high levels of carbon dioxide were found last week.

Mamie P. Whitesides Elementary in Mount Pleasant will be conducting an eLearning day Friday “out of an abundance of caution” after school officials discovered higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide in certain areas of the school.

Parents received an email Thursday that informed them there had been some air quality concerns in the building, and they are working with personnel to address the issues.

Principal Michelle Conner sent the email that read in part:

As you know, out of an abundance of caution, the district moved Whitesides Elementary School to eLearning for students and remote work for employees for Thursday, October 19, 2023.

Out of the same abundance of caution, Whitesides will remain eLearning for Friday, October 20, 2023.

The decision was made to move the school to eLearning after two students had medical emergencies within the last three weeks, the last of which occurred on October 18. While we remain unsure if the medical emergencies are connected in any way, the medical emergencies coupled with indoor air quality concerns in some areas this year, as well as ongoing HVAC repairs, caused district officials to move to eLearning which allowed for CCSD to conduct assessments of the physical environment.

Our facilities team with support from members of the Mount Pleasant Fire Department and Hazmat team tested air quality levels throughout the building today. There were no findings that indicate an unsafe air quality environment.

District officials said the first medical emergency happened on Sept. 29, but there was no reason to connect it to any carbon dioxide issues at the time

The second medical emergency occurred on Oct. 18, which prompted the school to move to eLearning days.

Conner said more carbon dioxide tests will be conducted by Terracon, an environmental services company, on Friday.

In an email sent to parents on Tuesday, Conner said carbon dioxide readings were collected on Oct. 11 and 13. She said while the readings were ‘’well within OSHA standards for safe indoor air quality,” some locations were higher than what is typically seen indoors.

She said that on Monday professionals inspected the HVAC system and found that some units that introduce outside air into the building were not performing at 100% capacity which can allow CO2 levels to stay higher.

The school district said repairs have already been made and parts have been ordered to get one of the units functioning at maximum capacity. Permanent air-quality monitoring devices have also been installed.

One Whitesides Elementary School parent, Polk Price, said he feels he’s been left in the dark when it comes to communication from the school on what has been happening.

“We’ve got friends that say their kids have been sick for the past three weeks, same kind of symptoms, they don’t know if it’s related or not, but now that this has come to light it’s like, maybe it is related,” Polk said. “If the school district had come out and put out a statement and said what happened and what’s going on, it would stop a lot of the wheels are turning and people trying to figure out what’s going on, it would stop a lot of the hearsay.”

He said he worries about how long Whitesides students will have to remain out of school.

“To be able to afford to live in Mount Pleasant, both parents are working. Are we looking at eLearning from now until Christmas? Are we looking at a couple of days? We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

The school provided documentation on all environmental tests that have been conducted in the past 12 months. You can find the results, here.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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