Chemical contaminant found in high school interrupts school activities

An unidentified chemical contaminant suffused on the first floor at 115 Greenough on Nov. 3, and Head of School Anthony Meyer dismissed school at 1:12 p.m. During the incident, emergency vehicles responded with police cars blocking streets, ambulances pulling out stretchers and fire trucks appearing to clear and ventilate the affected area.

In an email, Meyer said that tomorrow, Nov. 4, classes would resume as scheduled and any extracurricular events planned for this afternoon and evening would still occur. Meyer also changed the end of the quarter by one day from the early dismissal.

“The building has been deemed safe by Brookline Public Health in consultation with Boston Hazmat,” Meyer said. “We are grateful to our students and staff for their quick evacuation and patience as we worked to evaluate the situation. I am delaying quarter end by a day so that teachers can adjust the timing of tests, quizzes, and other major assessments as necessary.”

All students and staff were evacuated at approximately 11:47 a.m. According to the Public Schools of Brookline, it is known that at least two students and two staff members have been transported to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Junior Justina Wang was in the building when the irritant began to spread. Wang said everyone in the cafeteria began to have a simultaneous reaction.

“Everyone started coughing, and the people across from us were turning [really red]. Then, one of the custodians came by and [told us] ‘You should probably leave this area,’” Wang said.

Special education aide and paraprofessional Anthony Neal said he heard a concerning sound while in the cafeteria.

“I heard a large popping sound right after the fire alarm went off,” Neal said. “The fire alarm was flashing, and I heard a pop close to where the cashiers [in the cafeteria] were.”

Math teacher Lisa Rodriguez was trying to get lunch in the STEM commons when the incident occurred. She said there were gradually more people reacting to the suffusion.

“I couldn’t breathe, and I was coughing like crazy, so I [went] to [drink] water out of the water fountain next to the girls’ bathroom,” Rodriguez said. “Then I tried to go back to the restaurant, and there were four or five kids and Zac Broken Rope [a teacher], who was also walking by, coughing with watery eyes. The deans then pulled the fire alarm.”

Junior Nathan Feuerman said his math class was interrupted because of the incident.

“I was sitting in math class with Mr. Paniagua, in room 364. We heard the alarm, and as we were walking out I smelled a gas,” Feuerman said.

Associate Dean Lisa Redding said students and staff were unable to breathe and had watery eyes, and many went to the nurse with lung irritations.

Meyer asked students to be transparent about the incident while the investigation proceeds.

“We are investigating this incident along with the Brookline Police Department,” Meyer wrote. “If you have any information, please do your part and share what you know with your dean, guidance counselor or trusted adult.“

This is an updating story. Check back for more updates.