Teachers say feeling sick is nothing new at North Port school

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 5:23 pm | Updated: 9:35 am, Mon May 5, 2014.

NORTH PORT, Fla. - Following a story we first brought you Wednesday, five teachers at Lamarque Elementary School in North Port are recovering after they say they fell ill at school. A HAZMAT team was called in but nothing was reported found.

"Shortness of breath, irritated eyes, heaviness in the chest." That's what science and technology teacher D'arcy Denis says frequently happens to those who work at the school.

She says the effects have been highlighted by the recent incident, though she says staff has been dealing with issues for a while. "I think the biggest frustration we feel as a staff is the fact this has been ongoing for seven years since the school opened."

Sarasota County superintendent of schools Lori White says she understands. "I am certain they are feeling frustrated and perhaps that is being perceived as I am not being heard. Unfortunately, just knowing the symptoms does not lead us necessarily to what the cause is."

Accusations have blamed everything from tainted drywall to sewer gas. The school district has spent more than $350,000 on experts and tests to determine what if anything could be causing problems. White says this past incident was even another opportunity for results. "With the HAZMAT team going into every classroom and looking at their readings there was nothing which indicated there was anything in the environment causing those types of symptoms."

We're told a rotten orange was found earlier in the morning in a students messy desk. "Certainly there is a hypersensitivity which is understandable. That does not make the symptoms any less real."

The school district is currently waiting for a final report from a toxicology expert. Also, a response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asking the federal agency for help. So far no answer if they will look into the matter. "We are not making a conclusion that there is nothing there until we have vetted every possibility."

For those like Denis it's very real. Hopeful an answer and a fix to what ails them is coming soon. "We appreciate what they are doing and we look forward to them opening up the lines of communication a little bit better."

District officials were on site at the school Thursday. We are told there were no issues.

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