Weather Forecast


Paynesville, Minn., school evacuated

Paynesville and St. Cloud firefighters and other emergency crews respond Tuesday to the Paynesville Area Middle School building. Students and parents were evacuated from the building the night prior after some students fainted during a choir concert. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

PAYNESVILLE — Paynesville Area Secondary School was evacuated and closed Tuesday because of suspected air quality issues that also affected a choir concert Monday evening.

The problem was suspected to be carbon monoxide exposure, but that is no longer thought to be the cause.

Students in the separate Paynesville Elementary School remained in school for the full day. After-school activities were cancelled for grades K-12.

The secondary school has about 500 students in grades 6-12.

According to student postings on Twitter, several people fainted or felt ill at a choir concert Monday evening, and a fire truck and ambulances were at the school then.

On Tuesday, students tweeted that people were fainting at school. Several also said they didn’t feel well, either.

School officials could not be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment.

According to a statement from the Paynesville Area Health Care System, the hospital was notified at 9 p.m. Monday that several students had fallen ill at the choir concert.

Nine patients were treated.

“Initially, it was thought to be a carbon monoxide exposure,” the release said. “Each individual was tested for carbon monoxide with levels returning within normal ranges. Patients were observed and discharged.”

Tuesday morning, the hospital was notified at about 10 a.m. that students were experiencing lightheadedness, headaches, nausea and feeling faint. Ten patients were treated and released from the hospital’s emergency department, and a dozen were seen at the clinic, according to the release.

The hospital has been in communication with the Hennepin County Regional Poison Control, Minnesota Department of Health and the Mayo Clinic regarding the incidents. Additional testing was done for viral cultures and influenza.

The cause of the illness is undetermined and still under investigation, according to the release from the hospital.

Ashton Knapp, a ninth-grader at Paynesville Secondary School, said in a telephone interview that it was “an unforgettable choir concert” Monday, as students started fainting or leaving the stage because they felt ill. The girls standing on each side of her were among those who were sick, Knapp said.

As the choir was about to begin its final last song, the school was evacuated.

On Monday evening, she said, she had a headache and her legs were shaking, but she felt better after she’d been outside the building for a while. Tuesday morning, she woke up with a sore throat, she said.

Later in the morning, she felt dizzy and shaky, she said. Knapp’s mother picked her up from school and took her to the hospital. “The doctors don’t think it’s carbon monoxide,” she said.

In addition to Paynesville emergency responders, crews from many communities in Kandiyohi and Stearns counties provided mutual aid assistance.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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