Officials: Father Judge High School safe, but closed on Wed

December 6, 2011 9:13:22 PM PST
Though it has been declared safe by officials, Father Judge High School will remain closed on Wednesday.

The administration of Father Judge High School was notified late this afternoon by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that it was safe for its school to be open to students.

School officials responded in a statement, "out of an abundance of caution for the safety of its students and faculty, as well as concern for those who experienced eye and skin irritation after visiting the school for a cheerleading competition last Sunday, the school will remain closed tomorrow."

The Philadelphia Police, Fire, and Public Health Departments have investigated the situation.

Officials say continued presence of risky hazardous materials or agents has been ruled out.

The high school is working with an outside environmental firm to conduct additional testing which would not have otherwise been performed.

Those results are expected tomorrow afternoon.

Pending those results, school would reopen on Thursday, December 8th.

Health and safety officials continued performing additional tests at the high school in Northeast Philadelphia on Tuesday after a number of people suffered severe eye irritation following a weekend event.

School was not in session on Monday and classes were cancelled today as the mystery continues.

A cheerleading competition was held at the school on Sunday and some who attended began having symptoms shortly after arriving - others fell ill later in the evening. At last check as many as 50 people had taken themselves to area hospitals for treatment.

Angela Milio explained the sensation, telling Action News, "I don't know how to explain the feeling, but it felt like [my eyes] were on fire."

Milio's eyes are red and swollen. She and her daughter, Paige, have been putting warm compresses on their eyes trying to flush whatever has been burning them since they left Father Judge High School Sunday afternoon.

Angela says, "When we were at the gym they were just burning and they just kept watering."

Paige Milio explains, "I blinked once we got in the car and I couldn't open my eyes. And when I did it looked like I was crying for hours."

The fire department is now working to identify the source of the irritation. So far, the cause is unclear.

Charles Lepre from the Fire Marshal's Office tells Action News, "We do have the health department en route. There's a doctor en route and a chemist who will do all that analysis and hopefully identify what the problem is."

Father Judge President Reverend Joseph Campellone says, "We've been here since 5:00 in the morning looking to see how we can help those who are sick right now. So, that is our major concern right now."

The Milios are concerned about any long term complications the irritant may cause. They plan on going to the hospital for evaluation as officials try and get a clearer picture of what went wrong at Father Judge.

"I feel like they're brighter than usual and I actually am kind of, my eyes are a little blurry," said Angela.

Action News heard from one parent that there was a MRSA scare at the school a couple of weeks ago and the building was scrubbed down. What chemicals were used and whether that played a role this weekend has not been confirmed. The Archdiocese is trying to find the answer.

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