The Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School on Cesar Chavez Street was evacuated on Friday morning after reports of a gas odor at the school, said Fire Department spokesperson Jonathan Baxter. Children were evacuated near 9:30 a.m. in a precaution after the Fire Department was called by an anonymous person who smelled gas, he said.

“We dispatched multi-casualty units and there were 50 people on-site immediately,” said Baxter. The incident was resolved about 20 minutes later at 9:50 a.m. when firefighters did a sweep of the building and “determined that the facilities were safe,” he said.

Students playing at the park across the street from Flynn. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Students headed back in at 10:25 a.m.

Baxter said there was a possible gas leak in the before-school morning hours that was “mitigated” by PG&E before the school, located at 3125 Cesar Chavez St. near Harrison Street, started for the day, Baxter said. There was no threat to the students by the time school began, he added.

Jenny Debevec, a parent, disagreed that the problem was so easily resolved.  “Most of the school is across the street at the playground,” she said at 10:15 a.m.

Debevec said that a leak in the boiler room had knocked out the electricity and that even though the principal had determined that the school was okay, some parents kept their children out of school and teachers took students over to the playground across the street. Debevec described the smell as “strong” and said that teachers had complained of getting headaches.

“So this is were we are doing our learning today, at the parks,” she said.

When she arrived at Flynn this morning, she said PG&E had not yet been there. However, they did arrive later, she said, after her husband called them.

While the school had been cleared by PG&E, she said, the problem was that 57 of the Flynn students suffer from asthma, making the odor more difficult to endure.

A school district spokesperson wrote in a statement that “At about 6 a.m. today, buildings and grounds staff noticed the smell of gas and contacted PG&E, and the problem was contained and resolved.”

As PG&E continued to monitor the situation after the fact, the statement indicates, by 8:30 a.m. the smell persisted and so children and teachers stayed at the park until an all-clear was given at 10:15 a.m. and children returned to the school.

By 10:30 a.m., teachers were calling out to the students to announce they were heading back into the school.

This was the second day in a row that Flynn has been affected by the recent storms. On Thursday, Debevec said, the school was without electricity.

The empty playground at Flynn. Photo by Lola M. Chavez