KAMIAH — When early arriving Kamiah Middle School teachers noticed a bad odor last Thursday, Feb. 11, they immediately contacted superintendent Ben Merrill and principal Peggy Flerchinger. As students arrived they also noticed the smell, which was bad enough to disrupt classwork, according to Merrill. Henry Bailey, district maintenance, began to check it out and he initially suspected a sewage blockage.
Merrill said he “got ahold of school board chairman, Rikki Simler, who agreed that school should be canceled for student safety.” Although the high school and elementary school were not affected, all students were sent home due to the challenge of running the same bus routes twice.
After the City of Kamiah staff ruled out a sewage problem, Bailey found that the main flame control unit for the boiler went out and the heat exchange unit was partially blocked. After Bailey fixed the problem, Kamiah Fire chief, Bill Arsenault walked through the school on Sunday and recommended having an HVAC company come to do some tests, including for carbon monoxide. This was accomplished by Monday night, Feb. 15, in the classrooms, common areas and hallways. They were prepared to reopen school Tuesday but the significant snowfall Monday night led to a snow day.
Merrill said this incident makes it clear that “everyone is looking out for student safety.” He is thankful for the teachers who notified him of the problem early, for Bailey and the HVAC company who came on short notice “I appreciate Kamiah Fire Chief Bill Arsenault; he was fantastic to work with.”