Fleetwood Police evacuated Fleetwood Area Middle School during a Fleetwood Community Theatre rehearsal Thursday night, Feb. 7. FCT cast members became ill and were sent to the hospital.

Fleetwood Police reported that while the community theater group was practicing for an upcoming play in the middle school auditorium, several people became ill. The school was evacuated and the fire department conducted air quality checks. Cast members, who were conscious and alert, were transported by ambulance to area hospitals for evaluations.

In a letter to parents, Superintendent Greg Miller reported that on Feb. 7 during the Fleetwood Community Theatre play practice, at about 8:30 p.m., two adults and seven students suddenly became ill and needed medical treatment. Emergency services were called and responded to the emergency situation promptly. The building was evacuated and those with symptoms were transported to hospitals.

“It is believed that the illness resulted from carbon monoxide exposure, but neither the fire department nor Berks County Department of Emergency Services found any traces of carbon monoxide. We do have confirmation that the test results from the hospital show some level of carbon monoxide exposure for most of the people treated there. As a precautionary measure, we closed the middle school to conduct additional testing and an investigation concerning the matter,” reported Miller.

Friday morning, Feb. 8, an outside air quality contractor was at the middle school to continue the investigation.

“After hours of testing, they did not find any cause for the illness, or any unsafe gas levels, including but not limited to carbon monoxide. One concern that has been identified is the possibility that the stage lights could have been a contributing factor to the illness. Therefore, the overhead stage lights will not be used until our lighting contractor can certify that they are safe and working properly,” reported Miller.

Additionally, the school district installed carbon monoxide detectors in the auditorium, stage, and back stage areas to help monitor and ensure the safety of students, staff, and community.

“While the building has been cleared for use, we will be keeping it closed throughout the evening Feb. 8 to continue to monitor the situation.”

The district plans to reopen the building for events on Saturday, Feb. 9, including a regular school day on Monday, Feb. 11.

“Even after re-opening the building, we will continue to monitor the building to ensure everyone’s safety,” said Miller.

“FCT wants to thank everyone for their concerns and prayers during the event at Thursday night’s rehearsal. Nine members were taken to area hospitals. ALL are doing well, all have been released after being tested and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning (2 of the 9 tested negative),” FCT posted on Facebook.

FCT’s Friday performance Feb. 8 was cancelled and then later announced on Facebook that the Board of Directors have chosen to postpone the Saturday, Feb. 9, 2 p.m. show of "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

"To allow time for our cast to continue to recover from Thursday's scare. We are doing everything possible to give these kids the opportunity to shine."

An announcement will be made regarding the alternative performance dates and times.

"We sincerely hope every one comes sees this AMAZING group of students perform an incredibly adorable comedy."

FCT wants to thank the four fire companies that assisted, Fleetwood Volunteer Fire & Rescue, Oley Fire Company, Kutztown Fire Co. Station 46, and Lyons Volunteer Fire Company.

“Thank you to Dr. Greg Miller and the staff at Fleetwood Area School District,” posted FCT.

Miller offered a special thank you from Fleetwood Area School District to the Fleetwood community first responders “who acted quickly and efficiently to handle all health concerns and support the students and community members during this emergency situation. As always, our main concern is for the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and community.”

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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