Classes resume today at St. Joseph

An EMT confers with an ambulance driver outside St. Joseph School after a dozen children became ill Wednesday morning.

An EMT confers with an ambulance driver outside St. Joseph School after a dozen children became ill Wednesday morning. Photo by Julie Smith.

Editor's Note: This article updates and expands upon earlier reports filed Wednesday.

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St. Joseph Cathedral School planned to resume classes this morning, while authorities continued to look into what caused around a dozen children to become ill at the school Wednesday morning.

“Outside water and food are being brought in,” said Cole County Emergency Management Director Bill Farr. “There hasn’t been any recent construction at the school that might have caused something to break or leak.”

Jefferson City Police Department Sgt. Pat McCutchin said it all started when some children apparently passed out for an unknown reason.

“At least one child collapsed while they were in church service at St. Joseph Cathedral around 8:30 a.m.,” he said. “Parents were notified and sought medical attention for those children. Some even came back after this because they were fine.”

“Later in the morning more kids became light-headed, dizzy, passed out and some even had a rash,” McCutchin said.

At 11:30 a.m. around 12 students had been affected.

“The first three victims went from the school to the church and then had their symptoms appear,”McCutchin said. “The other kids that were affected were in the school when the symptoms hit them.”

Members of the Cole County Health Department, Jefferson City police and fire departments as well as the Cole County Hazmat team responded.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources was on hand to test water and air quality at the school, and the air quality was deemed safe.

“They have equipment that tests air for things per parts per million and even parts per billion, which is very sensitive, and turned up nothing,” Farr said. “The entire school was checked twice. We did concentrate on the second-floor near the science lab where many of the students affected had been, but nothing out of the ordinary was found there.”

Water sample tests were done by DNR, but Farr said it takes 24 hours before final results can be determined.

The children were not quarantined, but they were held in place on the school and church properties to make sure testing could be completed.

Around noon, authorities deemed it safe for students to be allowed to go home and parents were allowed to pick up students.

Farr said Ameren Missouri crews did testing inside and outside the building and could find no leaks or strange smells at the school.

“The only common denominator is that all the kids affected did drink water at the school,” he said. “Other than that, it’s a real mystery. We’ve never had any problems at this building. It could be a flu bug, who knows.”

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