Jefferson County Open School reopens after hazmat scare; Habanero peppers found on playground

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Jefferson County Open School will reopen today, two days after several students got sick on the playground.

Just before 1 p.m. on Monday, students started coughing and reporting itchy eyes, according to district spokeswoman Melissa Reeves.

Thirty students and one teacher aid were decontaminated. Seven students were taken to St. Anthony's Hospital and to Exempla Lutheran Medical Center for treatment.

Initially, officials suspected that fertilizer applied to a soccer field at the school might have been the source of the irritation, but fire officials ruled that out.

Tuesday the district confirmed to 7NEWS that shreds of "approximately six" habanero peppers were found on the playground in the wood chips. Reporter Lindsey Sablan asked if the peppers were put there intentionally, but the district could not answer the question.

"Coming in contact with the pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced," the district wrote in an email.

The school was closed Tuesday while the playground and building were cleaned. Additionally, the wood chips where the peppers were found were replaced.

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