30 kids, 1 teacher decontaminated during hazmat incident at JeffCo Open School; 7 taken to hospital

Official: Kids had reaction on playground

LAKEWOOD, Colo. - Thirty students and one teacher were decontaminated, including seven taken to hospitals, after a mysterious hazardous materials incident at Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood on Monday.

Jefferson County Public Schools said the school will remain closed on Tuesday.

District spokeswoman Michelle Reeves said the children had some sort of reaction to an irritant on the school playground. Parents reported children having itchy eyes and coughing.

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

Firefighters using handheld monitors initially detected something in the air upon arriving but the airborne contaminant was so small that they could not determine what it was and it quickly dissipated.

Deputy Chief Scott Rogers of West Metro Fire said hazmat monitors showed hits for "some toxic irritant-type stuff" outside the northeast side of the school.

"We have ruled out fertilizer, which is some of the initial reports, because the soccer field directly north of the school did have fertilizer applied today. It was applied appropriately [and]…all of our hazmat monitors ruled out organophosphate poisoning," Rogers said.

"Our meters did not pick up pepper spray, which is common with this reaction," the chief added.

On Monday evening, West Metro Fire went floor to floor through the school with a special meter, according to spokeswoman Michelle French.  They discovered some kind of irritation in different spots but they couldn't find a source of the irritant.

The incident does not appear to be deliberate.

Jefferson County fire officials ordered the entire school to be evacuated just before 1 p.m. The K-12 school, which has about 500 students and 50 staff, is located at 7655 W. 10th St. Students who were not immediately affected by the hazardous materials were escorted by teachers to a nearby church.

"It was all very organized," said parent Meg York. 

Firefighters sent up a blue decontamination tent in front of the school and used a water-spray nozzle to decontaminate the 30 student, most of whom appeared to be elementary-school age children.

"They took my clothes and gave me a shower," said student Ryleigh Landry.

Jefferson County Open School evacuated

The father of a first-grade boy who was decontaminated said his son had itchy eyes. The dad was just going to take the boy home.

"I was a little concerned, but it's kind of an over-reactive society as it is already," the father said.

7NEWS reporter Lindsey Sablan saw a teenage girl carried away on a stretcher. Those patients who were transported were taken to St. Anthony's Hospital and to Exempla Lutheran Medical Center.

"Just worried. Hopefully everybody is OK," said parent Michelle McManus. 

All other students and staff were evacuated to Presbyterian Church at 8210 W. 10th St., where the students were picked up by their parents.

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