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Children sent to hospital after ingesting pool chemicals at St. Augustine Prep

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Posted at 1:34 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 18:50:49-05

MILWAUKEE — Eleven 4th grade students at St. Augustine Preparatory Academy were sent to the hospital after a chlorine buildup in the pool area caused air quality to deteriorate on Monday.

As of Tuesday, only two kids remain hospitalized at Children's Wisconsin after the exposure. According to Children's Wisconsin, a total of 21 kids were seen. Thirteen kids were discharged home and not admitted to the hospital. Six of the eight kids admitted were discharged from the hospital on Tuesday.

Battalion Chief Andrew Hargarten says the students were participating in a swimming class when the air quality rapidly changed. School officials say a mechanical failure in the pool caused excess chlorine to be released. The hospital or the school did not release the ages of the children or their conditions. The academy serves about 1,500 students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

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According to a news release from the school sent Monday evening, a mechanical failure of unknown origin resulted in excess accumulation of chlorine in the pool during swim class.

School officials said as a result, air quality in the pool quickly deteriorated which required the evacuation of all students in the pool.

The school told families in a letter that some of the children were brought to Children's Wisconsin "out of an abundance of caution." The school said the incident happened during their swim class around 1 p.m. on Monday.

According to the school:

"We will be working with our vendor to understand how this can be prevented in the future. We will always work to make sure Aug Prep is a safe place for our students and staff.

This is a fluid situation right now and we will update you as we know more.

In the meantime, please pray for the fast recovery of the students impacted."

"I'm not exactly sure what happened in the pool but there was some sort of release in the pool that caused respiratory issues and that's what everyone was treated for and transported," said Milwaukee Fire Battalion Chief Andrew Hargarten.

"Everyone was rapidly removed to the hallway where they were then assessed and treatment began," Hargarten said.

Children’s Wisconsin meanwhile said it has opened its command center and has begun its "patient surge process" at its Level 1 Emergency Department and Trauma Center.

Children's said it has received patients "from a chemical exposure at a local school." Children's said it expects to have the necessary staff on hand.

Hargarten said 11 students were transported and only the pool area was affected. Milwaukee Fire turned the building over to maintenance and the pool company to figure out what happened.

"We are working hard with our maintenance contractors to complete a thorough evaluation so we can understand better what happened and prevent a future occurrence," the school said in a statement. "As we do, we can share that the pool in question passed its annual inspection at the beginning of the school year. The pool is checked daily; no unusual chemical levels were detected during the daily check this morning."

The pool will remain closed until further notice. The school says no other school events or functions are impacted by the situation.

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