Gaseous smell changes plans, not clothes


by Agatha Blevin and Olivia Lorenzo

A seemingly normal Monday at Glen Rock High School took an unexpected turn when students in Physical Education classes were told not to change due to the smell of fumes coming from the gym locker room area during fourth period.

It was later clarified that the gaseous smell actually originated from a 1,500 horsepower motor in a turbine fan on the rooftop and posed no harm to people in the school building. This machine supplies heat and fresh air to the locker room and sports lobby, according to a school electrician. At 10 a.m. on Nov. 3, a call was made to the Buildings and Grounds department. They soon discovered that a rubber component had broken down and needed to be replaced.  

The maintenance employee “shut off and isolated” the problem, but the smell lingered for a few hours. A burnt motor is an occasional issue that the Buildings and Grounds department encounters.

Yet despite the seemingly innocuous origins of the smell, it still caused significant alarm among students and faculty members alike. 

During fourth period, the freshman class had just finished an intense game of volleyball when they were released to go change for their next period class. The faint sulfuric smell soon became overwhelming as they made their way closer to the locker rooms.

Christopher Fox, a gym teacher who taught a class that period, said, “I came down the hallway over to the locker rooms—there was a horrible burnt smell.”

Having considered the unknown danger, Fox made the quick decision to not have the class change.

“I didn’t think it was safe for the kids to go and get changed,” he said.

Students were initially confused as to why they could not change their clothes or retrieve their belongings.

“I heard a lot of rumors, and people said there was a gas leak,” said Christine Nappi, freshman in the fourth period gym class. “When I walked by the locker room, I saw everyone in my class covering their nose—that’s when I knew something was wrong.”

A simple announcement would have been nice.

— Sasha Frangulov

Some students expressed concern that the chemicals they were breathing could be harmful. Others weren’t as concerned and said the situation “seemed weird, although not particularly dangerous.”

Gym teachers acted calmly throughout the duration. According to students, the teachers handled the situation well; the only complaint was the lack of information the students received.

“They told us to just go to class and that they would tell us when we could get our stuff—they didn’t,” said Sasha Frangulov, senior in the fourth period class.

The art office had also sent in complaints, but they hadn’t received any information to share at the time.

According to the Buildings and Grounds department, it is not its protocol to report a non-threatening incident. If it were an “actual fire or emergency,” however, the principal would have been informed. 

“A simple announcement would have been nice,” Frangulov said. “It was a bit worrying how much we didn’t know.”