Teacher Heidi Engle helps pinpoint an area of a stain as Gregg Middaugh and Kevin Hood, from PBS Engineering + Environmental, take notes Jan. 26 at a classroom at Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe. The trio then marked the spot so a swipe sample could be taken and analyzed to see if there was contamination that could be causing some students and staff to become sick.

Teacher Heidi Engle helps pinpoint an area of a stain as Gregg Middaugh and Kevin Hood, from PBS Engineering + Environmental, take notes Jan. 26 at a classroom at Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe. The trio then marked the spot so a swipe sample could be taken and analyzed to see if there was contamination that could be causing some students and staff to become sick.

Illnesses at Monroe school prompt probe into causes

MONROE — An alternative school here is being checked after some students and staff suspected that something in the building made them sick.

Nine people have complained of headaches, upset stomachs, eye irritation and respiratory troubles after being in certain classrooms at the Sky Valley Education Center since the start of the school year, said Monroe School District spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil.

The district has hired an environmental firm to look into the concerns, figure out what’s causing them and come up with a fix. Another company is checking the ventilation system, O’Neil said.

“They’re just looking into it,” she said, noting a previous test found no contamination. “We’re just double, triple, quadruple checking.”

In the meantime, the school is running normally. Students have not been moved out of six classrooms that seem to be at the heart of the complaints.

The building at 351 Short Columbia St. has been blamed for similar problems in the past.

The district received eight complaints about illnesses potentially linked to air quality from 2001 to 2015.

The campus housed Monroe Middle School until it closed and Sky Valley Education Center took the space in 2011. Now, the K-12 alternative school serves more than 850 students.

After three complaints were made in October 2014, the district decided to test the building. O’Neil said no contaminants were found in the school but the ventilation system was adjusted.

The fix stopped complaints until this past fall, she said.

During winter break, O’Neil said, the carpet was torn out of some classrooms in case it was contributing to poor air quality.

Workers from PBS Engineering and Environmental have been on campus investigating concerns since mid-January. The company completed its initial assessment at the end of January and is now figuring out a plan to address the complaints, O’Neil said.

The district won’t know how much the work will cost until the company makes its plan, she said.

The Sky Valley Education Center is slated to receive about $1 million for building updates and replacing flooring. The money is part of the district’s $110.9 million bond that voters passed in 2015.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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