A Dead Owl Caused Carbon Monoxide Leaks at Lakewood School, So Dads Are Taking Action

Tuesday, after a couple dozen kids came home sick on Monday, DISD cancelled school at Lakewood Elementary. Areas at the school -- specifically an art classroom -- contained high levels of carbon monoxide, enough to make kids in the class complain of stomach aches and dizziness. A retired teacher who now volunteers at the school remains in the hospital after being exposed to the carbon monoxide in a copy room near the art class.

DISD maintenance crews found the source of the carbon monoxide eventually: a pipe in one of the school's boilers was blocked by a dead owl.

With the owl removed, district officials felt confident enough to issue a statement promising that the school would be open Wednesday, but when parents arrived, they found out that wasn't going to happen.

"Monday night, when all this started [the district] brought in air monitors and they didn't detect anything," says Chris Prestridge, the vice president of Friends of Lakewood, a group of involved dads at the school. "They went on with school Tuesday and obviously, you see what happened. Apparently, [the district] did the same thing last night. They cleared the dead owl out of the vent and put the monitors in place overnight."

The monitors didn't detect any excess carbon monoxide, but Prestridge says that's because the boilers don't kick on until morning. When the boiler started Wednesday morning, carbon monoxide was detected in the boiler room, he says. Parents arriving to drop their kids off Wednesday were told school was cancelled. Again.

Seeing as much of this could've been avoided had Lakewood Elementary been equipped with carbon monoxide detectors -- they aren't required by the state -- the Friends of Lakewood dads are taking matters into their own hands. After hearing rumors of parents potentially sticking monitors on their kids backpacks, Friends of Lakewood decided to pay for monitors throughout the school on its own.

"We took the bull by the horns last night, we're a smaller group than the PTA and we're able to operate a little more swiftly and we just said, 'Hey, look, we're going to go do this,'" Prestridge says.

Many of the schools near Lakewood face similar maintenance issues due to age, he says, so the group is looking to put monitors in other schools in the Woodrow Wilson High School feeder pattern -- like Stonewall Jackson and Mata -- as well.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young