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Engineer Suspended After Boiler Sickens Students at Prussing Elementary

By Heather Cherone | November 10, 2015 6:32am

A video shot by Rob Hagerman of the Prussing Elementary School Halloween parade Oct. 30 shows students showing off their costumes while carbon monoxide fumes caused by a faulty boiler filled the school. [Rob Hagerman]

JEFFERSON PARK — Chicago Public Schools officials suspended without pay the engineer who was on duty Oct. 30 at Prussing Elementary School when carbon monoxide fumes sickened approximately 80 students, officials said Monday.

An "independent, outside engineer" will conduct a thorough investigation of the school's heating system to determine what "next steps" will be taken, and until that is complete, an engineer will be on duty at the school, 4650 N. Menard Ave., five days a week to monitor the boiler, district officials said.

An engineer had been on duty at Prussing only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Principal George Chipain said.

But CPS officials rejected parents' demand that the boiler — which has been the subject of a litany of complaints dating back to January 2013 — be replaced immediately.

In a letter to Prussing's Local School Council, CPS officials said "it is unclear if a new boiler is necessary or if other elements of the heating system need to be upgraded to ensure the lasting stability of the system."

Prussing's engineer will be suspended until the outside investigation is complete, district officials told DNAinfo Chicago.

District CEO Forrest Claypool will attend the meeting of the Local School Council scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the school, council President Michele Rodriquez Taylor said.

In addition, district staff will conduct a tour of the boiler system Thursday for parents concerned that the building is still not safe for their children.

Approximately 80 students were hospitalized along with nine staff members after the boiler's gas regulator failed, sending noxious gas through the school as many students marched in a Halloween parade Oct. 30.

Several lawsuits have already been filed against the CPS in connection with the incident.

Since the incident, a Facebook page designed to allow parents of Prussing students to share information has been filled with anger, frustration and fear as many parents wrote that they were concerned the building was not safe for their students and have been infuriated by district officials' response.

Several parents are organizing a protest at the school Thursday morning, while others have signed up to speak at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.

Others wrote on Facebook that they have been keeping their children home, not believing district officials' statements that the boiler has been fixed and eight new carbon monoxide detectors would alert staff members in the event of another carbon monoxide leak before anyone is sickened.

At the time of the incident, the school had no carbon monoxide detectors, which are not required by state law or city ordinance.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, weakness, dizziness, nausea vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

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