Parents share concerns about chemical mishap, evacuation at Martin County school

By: Tanner Hesterberg, Brandon Orr Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg, Brandon Orr Email
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Martin County school officials met with parents Monday regarding an incident last week involving a bad mix of chemicals.

Custodian Nila Penix, 52, was injured in a chemical mishap Friday at Eden Elementary in Martin County.

INEZ, Ky (WYMT) - Update, 5/6/14, 11 p.m.

Martin County school officials met with parents Monday regarding an incident last week involving a bad mix of chemicals.

The mishap Friday at Eden Elementary sent a custodian to the hospital, where, as of Monday night, she was still being treated. The school was also evacuated.

Superintendent Steve Meadows said he wanted to hold the meeting as soon after the incident as possible.

"I wanted to make sure there was a formal opportunity for our community to come out and ask any questions and allay any fears about our schools and the safety of their children," Meadows said. "I think it was very productive at that point."

A chemical reaction Friday in the school's cleaning closet sickened custodian Nila Penix. Paramedics flew Penix, 52, to the hospital while teachers moved students out of the building.

None of the children were exposed to the fumes, school officials said.

"It was handled very carefully," said Amanda McCoy, a mother of two children who attend Eden Elementary. "They took care of our students and our children as if they were their own. And I feel very safe in sending my children to Eden."

Meadows admitted communication between administrators and parents Friday could have been better.

"In an age of technology, getting in front of Facebook and Twitter, you have to really be on your game on that," he said. "And I think that's an area for improvement that I have to lead for our district."

Meadows is preparing a report on Friday's incident to present to the school board. He said it should be complete in about two weeks.

Penix was listed in fair condition Monday night at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. Family members told WYMT Penix is improving but may suffer some long term health effects from exposure to the chemicals.

Update 5/4/14 6:00 p.m.

We now know the name of the woman who was exposed to harmful fumes at Eden Elementary in Martin County.

The Martin County Superintendent is asking people to keep Nila Penix in their thoughts and prayers.

Penix needed immediate medical attention when two chemicals were accidentally combined in a cleaning closet, producing fumes that made her sick.

The school was evacuated, but no students or teachers were affected by the chemicals.

Steven Meadows explained the incident to teachers and other employers in a letter.

There will be a forum on the incident for anyone with questions or concerns Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the school library.

Penix's condition is not being released at this time.

Update 5/2/14, 11 p.m.

A chemical mishap at an Eastern Kentucky school sent one woman to the hospital Friday.

It happened at Eden Elementary School in Martin County.

A female custodian at the school was attempting to clean up a minor chemical spill in a cleaning closet by mixing it with a cleaning agent. The two chemicals produced a reaction that created fumes and made the custodian sick within a couple hours of exposure.

Paramedics flew the custodian to St. Mary's Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia.

Administrators evacuated the school while local fire officials swept through to make sure it was safe for students to return.

Parents were notified via social media to come pick their kids up early, superintendent Steve Meadows said.

"At no time were our children in danger," Meadows said. "They were never exposed to any of the fumes and certainly they weren't exposed to any physical contact to any of the agents that were used."

The school's staff handled the situation properly, he said.

"It was only yesterday that Air Flight and the emergency responders were at the sight at this school for the children to see and to learn more about those services," Meadows said. "So yesterday was a good dry run for today."

School officials said classes will proceed on regular schedule Monday.

Meadows could not release the name of the custodian who was flown out, but said her injuries are not life-threatening.

Original story, 5/3/14, one p.m.

A Martin County school has been evacuated after an employee mixed cleaning supplies, causing a chemical reaction.

Dispatchers confirmed the incident at Eden Elementary and say that one person has been sent to a hospital for medical attention.

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