Chemical odor prompts Kahaluu Elementary evacuation

Kahaluu Elementary was evacuated Thursday due to a chemical odor reported near the campus. School officials notified the Honolulu Fire Dept. of a suspicious odor in the area around 11:15 a.m.

Students and teachers complained of a horrid smell coming through the classrooms, causing itchy eyes and nausea. It was enough to make some of the children vomit.

“It was very intense at first, so I myself felt kind of nauseated, but I didn’t get myself checked out,” said Joelyn Kaina, a tutor at the school. “But I had a sore tummy ache, (and felt) real light-headed and faint.”

“Everybody was complaining that their eyes were sore and then we just left,” said student Trinity Correa.

As a precaution, 25 students and six teachers were taken to Castle Medical Center or Kaiser Permanente.

“Any time you have a student complaining of shortness of breath, it needs to be taken seriously, though we did transfer them all in stable condition,” said Shayne Enright, public information officer for Emergency Medical Services.

On top of that, nearly 300 students were evacuated from the campus to Kaneohe District Park. The challenge was letting the parents know where their children were.

Sandee Niblock was frantic when she arrived on campus. At first, she was told that her daughter was at Castle, but “no, she’s at Kaiser, so it’s very confusing,” Niblock said. “I just want to get my daughter. She has asthma and I don’t know what’s going on.”

Apparently, it was just a miscommunication. The principal says school staff members are sending out the latest information to parents as soon as possible.

“We have updated information being sent out to parents as we speak, so they know that those that could not be picked up here, we are moving them closer for them to access their children,” said school principal Naomi Matsuzaki.

Crews gave the all-clear at 1:35 p.m. after air quality tests did not show any signs of hazardous material.

The Honolulu Fire Dept. could not confirm the source of the chemical smell, however school officials believe the odor came from the city park next door, which was being sprayed with some type of herbicide. The cause is still under investigation.

Kahaluu Elementary enrolls about 290 students. Classes will resume as scheduled Friday.

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