ATLANTA --As students return to Finch Elementary for the first time since a carbon monoxide leak sent dozens of their peers to the hospital and forced everyone else to evacuate Monday,theAtlanta Public School district isfocusingits investigation on two maintenance workers believed to be responsible for the leak.
COMPLETE COVERAGE | Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The Atlanta Public School district has installed a temporary boiler to keep kids warm until a new unit can be installed. They hope to receive the machine and have it installed during the two week holiday break, to avoid disturbing students further.
Thereis alsoanother change at the school: carbon monoxide detectors.
"The new carbon monoxide detectors have been installed at Finch Elementary School and the district is currently developing a plan to install carbon monoxide detectors across the entire district," said Deputy Superintendent Steve Smith.
The district says it hardwired the units at Finchinto the school's alarm system, but is not sure if that's the best plan for the rest of the district's 102 facilities.
"We have to start to understand how many and where. Only in boiler rooms? Only in kitchens?" said Superintendent Erroll Davis.
On Thursday, the district announced a turn in its investigation into the cause of the leak. It now says it wasn't equipment malfunction but human error that caused it.
"The cause of the carbon monoxide event was caused by the failure of the maintenance technicians to reopen a valve leading to the heat exchange," said Smith.
The district says those workers were performing preventative maintenancelast Friday. But instead of coming forward, the district had to learn about it, by reviewing the school's video recordings.
"To say that I am disappointed in this behavior would be an understatement," Davis said.
It's a mistake that will cost the district at least $52,000, since out of caution, it plans to replace the boiler anyway. It's concerned the stress of having the valve closed for more than 48 hours may have damaged the system.
APS isn't the only district installing detectors after the incident. Gainesville City Schools started installing them on Wednesday and plans to have them in every classroom with a gas powered heating unit, within the next three weeks.
While Superintendent Erroll Davis says he would support legislation mandating carbon monoxide detectors in schools, he feels changes to the building code would work better.
"Because we can change building codes much more quickly and also it can be done on a local level to fit local conditions," he said.
But even the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees building codes, says it would take at least a year to get anything on the books.
The governor has already asked DCA's advisory committee to study the issue in January and make its recommendations to the board of commissioners in November. Changes approved would then go into effect January 2014.
Changes could range from recommendations to put them in schools, daycares, nursing homes or all commercial buildings. The study panel will have to decide if changes are made, if they should apply to new construction or all existing structures.