ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- Ector County ISD has announced that the Ireland Elementary campus will close early Friday after several students and staff members became ill from the strong gas smell in the building. 

In a news release, ECISD said, in part, “As a precaution, ECISD and Ireland Elementary leaders are going to close the school for the rest of today. Over the past three days, Ireland staff and students have reported the smell of gas inside the building at different times and several have become ill. Odessa Fire & Rescue and Atmos have been on campus multiple times to conduct inspections and have not found any problems with the heating and ventilation systems. At this time, we do not have a reason to explain the illnesses, so, in order to be cautious classes will be dismissed for the rest of today. Additional inspections of the building and the area will be done this afternoon. It is expected school will be back in session on Monday. School leaders want to thank parents for their understanding and support as we work through this situation.”

Parents are being asked to pick up their children by noon, at which time any students still on campus will be bused to Ross Elementary to await pick up by their parents.

Earlier this week, people around Odessa started complaining of a strong gas smell, the Odessa Fire Department and representatives from Atmos Energy responded to multiple homes to check for gas leaks.

In a news release Wednesday, Atmos Energy said, “Atmos Energy is actively responding to odor calls in the Odessa area.  There are no active evacuations. The safety of the public, our employees and our system is our highest priority, and we want to thank Odessa Fire Rescue for their support and the residents who did the right thing by calling our emergency number. We will continue to respond to every odor call and will continue to do so as part of our vision to be the safest provider of natural gas services.”

According to Atmos Energy, because natural gas has no smell, an additive called mercaptan is added to natural gas in order to alert people to a gas leak, should one occur. The nontoxic chemical smells like rotten eggs.

“We believe the source of the odor the past two days is excess mercaptan. If too much mercaptan is inadvertently added to the system, it causes a higher than normal concentration of the odor that is associated with a gas leak,” Atmos Energy said in a release.

Anyone who smells gas is encouraged to call 1-866-322-8667. Atmos Energy says it will send a technician out to inspect and check for leaks.