Bentonville, AR –

By Jamie Brunk Staff Writer — A faulty boiler caused carbon monoxide to flood Washington Junior High School on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 students.

The carbon monoxide problem was discovered around noon Thursday after students complained to a teacher about feeling sick and having headaches. The Fire Department was summoned. Firefighters found that the level of carbon monoxide in the air was about 80 parts per million in the west end of the school. Acceptable maximum levels of CO are 35 to 50 parts per million.

The students were initially evacuated to the gymnasium, after firefighters determined that area did not have elevated carbon monoxide. The more than 1,000 students and more than 100 teachers were then sent outside because the school was shut down for the day.

More than 50 students were taken by ambulance and school bus to Northwest Medical Center of Benton County, where they were treated and released. Approximately 30 other students were taken individually to area hospitals by their parents, Superintendent Gary Compton said. Eight went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rogers, said Clark Ellison, hospital spokesman.

The school district is paying for all the students’ medical costs, Compton said. “It happened on our watch, so it’s our responsibility,” he said.