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Eagle Mountain-Saginaw testing system that monitors carbon monoxide

The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district is testing an air-conditioning unit at Wayside Middle School that is designed to monitor carbon dioxide, after air tests in March found high levels in two classrooms.

If district officials like what they see, they could replace up to 100 rooftop units at Wayside.

The problem was caused by inadequate circulation through the air-conditioning system.

The test unit is designed to detect high carbon dioxide and automatically pull in more fresh air, treat it and push it into the classroom. It will take at least 48 hours of monitoring to determine the unit's effectiveness.

Because other air-conditioning systems in the district are different, the district has no plans to test the air at other schools unless officials suspect problems, district spokeswoman Kristin Courtney said.

District officials have also decided not to test every Wayside classroom, despite requests from teachers and parents.

Superintendent Cole Pugh told Wayside employees in a memo that carbon dioxide levels for the whole school are likely similar to levels in the two tested classrooms.

"Based upon the assumption that the entire building needs a solution, we have focused our efforts on fixing the problem rather than devoting resources to testing individual rooms. This does not mean that we do not believe other rooms have issues, nor are we ignoring your concerns," Pugh wrote May 6.

Larry West, regional manager of the United Educators Association of Texas, however, said the district should conduct random tests in several Wayside classrooms because addressing the situation in a single classroom might not solve the problem campuswide.

"We are glad the district is taking positive steps toward a solution, but we believe the approach should be more comprehensive," West said.

Tests by an independent company showed that two classrooms off the science and math hallway had high carbon dioxide. Principal Wendee Long told parents in a May 3 letter that the school is safe.

Besides installing the new air conditioner, Wayside has three portable carbon dioxide monitors. And officials have adjusted the existing air conditioners to force more outside air into the building, a short-term solution that Courtney said is "not ideal" because it heats and hmudifies the building.

Carbon dioxide is a colorless, tasteless gas that people exhale. But if it displaces too much oxygen, it can cause drowsiness and headaches.

Teachers and some students' parents have reported those symptoms along with dizziness, nausea and fatigue, school district documents show.

JESSAMY BROWN, 817-390-7326

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