TOLLAND – Two students were treated at the hospital for possible exposure to the cold after Tolland High School was evacuated Friday, according to Tolland superintendent Dr. Walter Willett.
The students were treated and released from Rockville General Hospital. "Both are now home and released in good condition," said Willett.
The problem started when a pipe burst shortly after 10 a.m., causing alarms to go off and the building to be evacuated.
"The pipe bursting released water onto electrical equipment which created steam and an odor which filled the school," according to Willett. Initial reports were that there was a fire in the school, but those were proved to be false.
Around 900 students and staff, many without coats, had to walk from the high school at 1 Eagle Hill to Tolland Middle School, more than a half mile away. Temperatures were in the single digits Friday morning, with wind chills well below zero.
"At that point everyone was mad or scared because some of the girls and guys they were not wearing sweatshirts, they were skirts, shorts, dresses," said Tolland High School senior Brendan Provost.
Twelve students were checked out by paramedics and two sought further treatment at the hospital after being exposed to the extreme cold. A lot of them were pale, a lot of them were shaking profusely, some said they we're going to throw up," said Provost.
A parent called Fox CT upset that the students had to walk outside and weren't given time to get their jackets.
The students were brought to the middle school's gym and fed snacks as they waited.
"Once we got to the middle school, they told us to go the gym, they took our attendance and we basically just sat there," said Provost.
Willett says the evacuation plan called for students to travel from the high school to the middle school via bus, and says around 100 people utilized the five buses that were made available for students. Willett said a majority of the people still elected to walk. "We did dispatch some buses to sit along the way, so if students could have sat on the bus and keep warm they could," Willett said.
Amie Giguere has two children attending the high school and lives nearby. She says she heard students as they walked to the middle school. "I think they were just screaming, running down to get out of the old, it was a little scary," said Gihuere.
State police closed off parts of Old Cathole Road at the high school's entrance during the evacuation. Students took buses back to the high school around 1:45 p.m. to get their belongings before going home.
The superintendent says the evacuation went according to plan and "went well" in his estimation. "There's always things we could differently, and I think it would false to never ascertain something and try to do it better," said Willett.
Some students and parents say they were understanding on how the school handled the evacuation.
"It was pretty organized the way it went down," said Tolland High junior Evan Schecki.
"I believe safety first, the most pressing need was getting kids evacuated," said Giguere.
Willette said officials spent late Friday afternoon cleaning up the residual mess from the water, and a toxicologist told school officials what was spilled would not be a threat. Officials plan to re-open the school as usual next week.