Normal activity resumed at Father Judge High School late last week, but the investigation into a hazardous materials scare at the school on Dec. 4 and 5 has revealed little about the cause.
About 1,100 students, plus faculty and staff, returned to the classrooms and offices at the all-boys school on Thursday, Dec. 8, after two days of suspended activities.
“The city wasn’t able to conclusively declare the cause of why this happened. But there are no continuing or new symptoms [among victims]. Whatever it was, it was a one-time thing and it passed,” said Jim Garrow, a Philadelphia Health Department spokesman for the case.
On Dec. 4, more than two-dozen youth cheerleading squads took part in a competition in the school gym. That Sunday evening and on the following Monday, some 200 children and adults — all of whom had attended the competition — sought treatment at area hospitals for irritation or burning of the eyes and/or skin. Some also had rapid heartbeats.
Coincidentally, the school was closed that Monday, anyway, due to an off-site teacher in-service day. The building remained closed to all but emergency responders and key administrators on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 6 and 7.
Meanwhile, public agencies including the Health Department and the Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit investigated the complaints. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia hired a private environmental firm for additional testing.
“Everything came back inconclusive,” said the Rev. Joseph Campellone, the school president.
The experts found no hazardous substances in the air and detected nothing unusual on surfaces in the gym. There were cleaning substances on the bleachers, but nothing that should’ve triggered adverse reactions, Garrow said.
The city’s hazardous materials crews have concluded their investigation, while the Health Department’s disease control unit will continue to monitor those who reported symptoms, Garrow said. None of the victims were admitted for in-patient hospital care.
Father Judge continues to work with the private consultant to ensure proper handling of cleaning supplies and other substances among its staff, Campellone said. ••