2 Hokes Bluff schools closed Friday after 18 people report breat - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

2 Hokes Bluff schools closed Friday after 18 people report breathing problems

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Hokes Bluff middle and elementary schools are closed Friday so officials can continue to investigate why 18 people experienced breathing problems at the school Thursday. Source: Clare Huddleston/WBRC Hokes Bluff middle and elementary schools are closed Friday so officials can continue to investigate why 18 people experienced breathing problems at the school Thursday. Source: Clare Huddleston/WBRC
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ETOWAH COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

Hokes Bluff middle and elementary schools are closed today after 18 people were hospitalized Thursday with breathing problems.

A total of 17 students and one teacher reported respiratory problems and were sent to the hospital. After the students were taken to the hospital, everyone at Hokes Bluff Middle School evacuated to the high school.

[SLIDESHOW: Hokes Bluff Middle School evacuation]

Three students were admitted overnight and are still in the hospital. The rest of the students were treated and have been released, Etowah County Schools superintendent Alan Cosby said Friday.

Crime tape placed by the Etowah County Sheriff's Office still blocks off the front part of the school as officials continue to investigate the possible cause of the sickness.

The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Etowah County EMA conducted air quality tests on Friday morning. The carbon monoxide tests have come back negative, as did Alagasco's gas leak tests, but EMA officials say nothing has been ruled out.

School officials say most of the students who got sick were in the gym, which is in a separate building from the main school, but some students in the main building also experienced breathing problems.

"Most had been in P.E. class in the gym, however some had not been to P.E. class so we've had them in both parts of the building," Cosby said

Their symptoms included wheezing, congested breathing, dilated eyes and a sick stomach. Some of the students began showing symptoms around 9 a.m. Thursday.

The students affected ranged from 6th, 7th and 8th graders, not all in the same grade as previously reported.

Doctors have not diagnosed the sick students with anything specific, but a diagnosis could help the EMA's investigation.

"We would definitely use their advice and want their findings were with these kids that would definitely help us determine what it was," Patrick Huselton with the Gadsden EMA said.

Although no elementary school students showed any signs of breathing problems, the school was closed Friday as a precaution since it is next door to the middle school. Hokes Bluff High School is having class as usual.

School officials are hopeful that class will be back in session on Monday. They released the following statement about the situation on Thursday:

"Due to several students displaying respiratory problems at Hokes Bluff Middle School on Thursday, December 12, 2013, school will not be [in] session on Friday, December 13, 2013. Hazmat crews have inspected the building with no findings. We have been in contact with the Gadsden-Etowah Emergency Management Agency along with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Both agencies will assist in determining the possible cause as well as examining the building. Although there have been no issues at Hokes Bluff Elementary, as a precautionary measure, school will be closed there as well."

We will continue to provide updates on this developing story on air, online at MyFoxAl.com and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can watch our newscasts at www.FoxAlabamaLive.com and on the WBRC News app.

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