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JEFFERSON — A gas leak in the gym area of Jefferson Middle School led school officials to evacuate all students and staff to the Jefferson High School auditorium Thursday morning while the issue was being investigated.

When the “gas smell” initially was discovered, building officials chose to evacuate the building promptly.

Though temperatures still were low, they almost were 50 degrees higher than they had been the day before, so it was considered appropriate to have students head over to the high school auditorium for the short term.

School administration alerted families immediately of the situation, assuring them they would provide updates if school was to be dismissed for the day.

Mike Matteson, Jefferson Middle School principal, said that once inspectors were able to investigate, they determined the source of the smell to be a rooftop unit over the gym area of the building.

“We shut down the unit and turned off the gas supply,” Matteson said.

The district then immediately contacted experts to examine and fix the unit, he said.

“The building can run without that unit because it is meant to supply heat to the gym area only,” the principal said. “We are able to reroute heat from other units to the gym.”

Matteson explained that decision-makers chose to evacuate the building out of an abundance of caution rather than merely having someone look at it while students were in the building.

“Students were dismissed from the building in an orderly fashion and transitioned safely to the JHS auditorium under supervision of staff,” he said. “Students did a great job handling the transition to and from the high school.”

Representatives from both We Energies and the Jefferson Fire Department responded to investigate the issue, walking the building and taking readings through all areas.

Officials from both the energy company and the fire department both determined that it would be safe for students and staff to return to the building.

“Our maintenance and custodial people, along with the superintendent, accompanied the We Energies contact on the roof to verify the readings,” Matteson said, noting that at that point the readings turned up zero natural gas leakage.

The district then began to return students and staff to the building to resume the school day.

However, the district did allow parents to make their own determinations about whether they wanted their child to continue their attendance for the day.

Any family which did not feel comfortable about their student returning to school was invited to call the school office and ask to take their child home.

If notified, the school then would prepare that child for release in an orderly fashion.

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