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Mystery Material Closes School

LITTLETON, Colo. -- An ill student and the subsequent discovery of a white powder in his locker Monday morning prompted Littleton fire officials to order the evacuation of Heritage High School.

Jay Ruoff, a division chief for the Littleton Fire Department, said officials have no idea what the substance is despite an initial field test.

The test was "inconclusive" and the powder is being sent to a laboratory for further testing, said Ruoff.

He said six people were taken to a local hospital as a "precautionary measure."

The six were two school employees and four students.

The white powder was found in a gym bag, said the division chief.

Diane Leiker, spokeswoman for the Littleton School District, said the Littleton Fire Department was notified by school authorities of a problem about 1:20 p.m.

"Early this afternoon, a student was exhibiting what appeared to be signs of intoxication and was taken to a hospital," said Leiker.

She said that initially, paramedics were called to help the student. Hazardous materials crews were called when faculty members went to the student's locker and saw the white powdery substance.

"They didn't know what it was," said Leiker.

As a result, the school was shut down 40 minutes early, and all 1,550 students were sent home.

Five other students who have lockers in proximity to the ill student's locker were checked, she said.

Ruoff said the two school employees who were sent to the hospital had complained of itching and burning eyes. They were decontaminated.

The school was evacuated about 1:45 p.m. after the students were notified over the PA system, said Leiker.

All practices and events also were canceled Monday.

Ruoff said the public-school system sent a cleanup crew into the school Monday evening. A decision on reopening the school today was still pending Monday night, but parents and students can check news reports ondenverpost.com for updates.

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