WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - A total of seven Wetumpka Middle School sixth graders were transported to the Elmore Community Hospital for treatment after becoming ill during the school’s gym class on Thursday afternoon.
According to Elmore County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Dennis, more than 25 sixth-grade students got overheated and seven were taken to the hospital for treatment.
“We had approximately 30 students that indicated that they were exhibiting some type of heat issues. At that point, we evaluated the situation and seven were dispatched and taken to the hospital and were treated at the hospital for heat," Dennis said.
The students were in gym class shortly after 1 p.m. when this happened.
“I got a call this afternoon, approximately two o’clock, that a group of students in P.E. possibly were overheated," Dennis said. “By the time I got there, the local EMT units had responded.”
Shortly after, Dennis notified the students’ parents. Jeremy Grimes was one of the parents who received a phone call.
“At two o’clock this afternoon, we received a phone call from the Wetumpka Middle School notifying us that Layken (Grimes’s step-daughter) and other students had been overheated in P.E. class and they were asking for permission for the EMS to transport her up here to the hospital," Grimes said.
Grimes gave his permission and met his step-daughter at the hospital where she was treated for heat exhaustion.
“She (Layken) was treated for a mild case of heat exhaustion and told to hydrate and take it easy. So, no strenuous activities or play for the next 24 to 48 hours," Grimes said.
Grimes’ step-daughter, Layken Burgoyne, was one of the seven students taken to the hospital on Thursday afternoon. Burgoyne confirmed to WSFA 12 News that there was no punishment involved in the incident, despite some social media reports to the contrary.
Burgoyne said the school’s gym was being used for picture day on Thursday and that all of the school’s physical education classes were subsequently held outside. According to Burgoyne, water was available, but it was warm and when some students asked to go into the gym to get cold water, they were told “no.”
“He (Burgoyne’s P.E. coach) said that we had to run four laps (around the school’s practice field). There were about 99 kids out there, and he let us have a break for like two minutes and then he said we had to run two more laps,” Burgoyne said. "There were water fountains out there, but they were not cold and he would not let us go inside to get water.”
Burgoyne said she and many of her classmates began feeling ill as a result.
“I felt really lightheaded and my stomach was hurting a little bit and I just felt like I was going to pass out,” Burgoyne said.
According to the WSFA 12 News First Alert Weather Team, data from Gunter Annex shows temperatures around that time appeared to be in the low to mid 90s with a heat index near 100 degrees.
Grimes said he is outraged by the incident and that he has many unanswered questions.
“I want to know why several of these kids had these symptoms, why they weren’t being monitored, why they were even out there doing this kind of activity at this time of the day with this heat?”
According to Dennis, an investigation into exactly what happened is ongoing.