Arlington ISD Searching for Cause of Illnesses at Nichols Junior High

There's a mysterious illness going around at an Arlington junior high school.

"I knew they were testing the air,” said parent Natasha Jackson. “They said 'oh, everything's fine.' Well if they're still getting sick, everything's not fine."

What's making staff members at Nichols Junior High sick? It's a question Arlington ISD (AISD) leaders have been trying to answer for two months now.

At least a dozen staff members have reported feeling ill, as recently as Monday.

The district doesn't know if it's just a virus, or something wrong in the building. They've run a battery of tests with no answers yet.

Symptoms are ranging from dizziness and tingling to upset stomach.

So far, attendance records show students haven't been as seriously affected, but to be safe, over Thanksgiving break, crews scrubbed the school from top to bottom.

The halls of Nichols Junior High are packed again this week, with students hurrying down the cleanest corridors in Arlington ISD.

"We simply dusted from the ceiling all the way down the walls, wiped the walls down, cleaned the carpets. In this case, we steam-cleaned this carpet," said Kelly Horn, Executive Director of Plant Services for AISD.

The deep-clean comes after more than a dozen staff members reported feeling sick, starting back on September 22, when the school had to be evacuated.

"We did air testing that day and have continued to do a variety of air and mold and all kinds of testing," said Leslie Johnston, Director of Communications for AISD.

So far, every test has come back normal, but at least one staff member was still reporting symptoms on Monday of this week.

"I want to take my son out of the school because if y'all can't figure out what's going on, I don't want to have to get a call saying that something's happened," Jackson said.

Crews replaced every air filter.

"Just to make sure that we have good clean air going into the spaces," said Horn.

They've also called in two independent labs, the fire department, the EPA and now the Tarrant County Health Department.

So far, they've ruled out a natural gas leak, although they did find two small sanitary sewer leaks they've repaired.

"Won't stop there,” Johnston said. “We're going to continue to investigate. We want everyone to be healthy."

But Jackson says she needs more information, faster.

"I have a son in the car and we're not even knowing what's going on right now," she said.

Johnston says the district has sent out multiple updates to parents and staff members.

They've also asked the staff to take home anything they don't need in the classroom to try to get rid of anything that could cause an allergic reaction.

The Tarrant County Health Department is now interviewing everyone who's reported symptoms, to look for a pattern and see if the illnesses could be coming from somewhere else.

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