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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 17, 2024

HVAC system malfunction causes evacuation, disrupts student testing

The+fire+department+was+called+to+evaluate+the+situation+on-site%2C+and+by+11%3A05+a.m.+they+declared+that+the+school+was+safe+for+reentry.+
Ryan Derenberger
The fire department was called to evaluate the situation on-site, and by 11:05 a.m. they declared that the school was safe for reentry.

On May 7 at roughly 10:35 a.m., students and staff evacuated the building after smoke alarms went off due to an HVAC unit malfunction. In response, administrators temporarily stopped the AP Microeconomics and AP Human Geography tests and postponed the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA) biology test.

The fire department was called to evaluate the situation on-site, and by 11:05 a.m. they declared that the school was safe for reentry. During the incident, administrators kept students, staff and parents updated through messages sent via the Remind app.

The malfunctioning HVAC unit was located in World History teacher Thomas Young’s classroom. Young wasn’t in the room during the malfunction, as testing was taking place in his room; however, the unit hadn’t been working for a while, he said.

“I have not been using the AC because it’s been having problems,” Young said. “We had a work order in on it.”

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In a community message, Principal Robert Dodd addressed the situation and what administrators would do to fix the broken HVAC.

“It has now been disconnected and MCPS maintenance will repair it,” Dodd wrote in a letter to Whitman families and community members.

Freshman Annie Mershon was in Young’s room taking the MISA biology test when the smoke started.

“The smell got so bad that everyone was covering their noses and mouths to block it out,” Mershon said. “The AC unit then started smoking and we decided to all get out.”

Building services used fans to help disperse the smoke, but the odor spread throughout the second floor.

“The smoke was only in our room, but it could be smelt from all over the second floor because the ventilators pushed it around,” Mershon said.

Sophomore Allison Jack was starting the free response question (FRQ) section of the AP Microeconomics exam when the smoke alarms went off.

“It definitely paused my train of thought,” Jack said. “But luckily, we had only just started the FRQ section, so I had only barely read the question.”

Despite the incident, Young continues to feel safe in his classroom.

“I am happy no one got hurt,” Young said. “I know it’s all inconvenient and everything but at the end of the day, if no one’s hurt, that’s a good day.”

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Ryan Derenberger
Ryan Derenberger, Adviser
Adviser Why did you join the Black and White? To get one of the t-shirts. I also believe really strongly in the importance of journalism — more the first thing, though. If you could see one movie for the first time again, what would it be? Get Out  

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    mgstaller May 9, 2024 at 9:25 pm

    Well prepared article

    Reply