HARTFORD, Conn. — Police found nearly 40 bags of fentanyl stashed in multiple locations within a Hartford school in a search prompted after a student overdosed Thursday morning.
The student, a seventh-grader at the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy school, remains unresponsive and in “grave condition” after ingesting the drug, which subsequent tests confirmed to be fentanyl, police spokesperson Lt. Aaron Boisvert said Friday.
Two other seventh-graders were believed to be exposed to the drug and were also transported to the hospital, officials said. Both were released to their parents Thursday night, Boisvert said.
The bags of the drug were collected by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and tested at their lab, Boisvert said. The drug was found to be fentanyl, which confirmed earlier on-scene tests.
According to Boisvert, bags only contained fentanyl in powder form, and not other drugs. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin are sometimes cut with fentanyl because it is extremely potent, and cheaper to manufacture and purchase.
The fentanyl was “packaged in what you would see in street-level sales,” Boisvert said. The bags were also stamped with several identifying logos, he said.
Police believe the bags of fentanyl were brought into the school by the student who overdosed, Boisvert said.
Boisvert said police searched the home of the boy who overdosed, but did not comment further on the investigation.
The academy is a college preparatory magnet school for students in grades six through 12 who are interested in sports and medical sciences.
The school contains students from several towns in and around the Hartford area. The student who overdosed is from Hartford, Boisvert said.
“All of our hearts and prayers are with the child who remains hospitalized in grave condition, and with his loved ones,” Mayor Luke Bronin said at a news conference outside the school Thursday.
“This is one more lesson that fentanyl is a poison. These drugs are a poison. And please, if you’re a parent, have that tough conversation with your child tonight,” Bronin added.
The school was closed Friday while the campus is thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated — a process that is expected to take several days, Principal Alison Giuliano said in a letter to students’ families and staff Thursday night. Remote classes are not allowed by the state, she said.
The overdose happened about 10:30 a.m. at the magnet school. The boy collapsed in gym class and was unresponsive, officials said.
A school nurse initiated CPR until fire department personnel arrived and took over, District Fire Chief Mario Oquendo Jr. said. Firefighters were relieved by medics, after which “rhythm returned for that student and CPR was stopped,” he said.
When staff learned that the boy had ingested drugs, staff sought out and found the other two boys who had been with him earlier, officials said.
Officials said the other two students, who never lost consciousness, were together in a classroom in a different part of the school at the time the boy collapsed.
The other two boys, who are between the ages of 12 and 13, are also in seventh grade, said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent of Hartford Schools.
All three students were taken to Connecticut Children’s.
The other two students, both 12, are not believed to have also ingested the fentanyl and have since been released to their parents.
Boisvert said the other two students reported feeling dizzy, but their exposure level was “very minimal.”
“I want to extend my heart to the seventh-grader, his entire family, the other two students that were involved, and to the entire school community at Sport and Medical Sciences Academy,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “This has been, and continues to be, a really hard day for all of us.”
A Hartford schools crisis team was deployed earlier to provide counseling and other resources to students, she said.
The overdose triggered a “Code Yellow” alert, which means students and staff had to stay put while the boys were put into ambulances.
The alert remained in place at 2 p.m. as officers with drug-sniffing dogs continued to check the building. The school did not distribute lunches so as to not risk further exposure, Torres-Rodriguez said.
During a search of the school grounds, bags containing fentanyl were found in at least two classrooms as well as the gym, police said. Nearly 40 bags were eventually found stashed in these locations, Boisvert said Friday.
All students had to walk through a solution of bleach and OxyClean before leaving the school, in order to neutralize potential fentanyl exposure, police said.
It was not immediately clear whether the other two students also ingested the drug, or whether exposure was intentional, officials said.
It was unclear where in the school the boy ingested the substance, said Jason Thody, Hartford police chief.
Seamus McAvoy, Hartford Courant