SAUSD Science Teacher Gary Reynolds speaks out about dangerous overcrowding in chemistry classes at School Board meeting on Sep. 8
“A Santa Ana High School science teacher is claiming chemistry classes at the campus are crowded beyond state regulations, causing unsafe conditions for students,” according to the O.C. Register.
Gary Reynolds, who has taught physics, chemistry and other science classes at Santa Ana High for 22 years, filed a “report of concern” with the school district alleging an “existing unsafe situation in our high school chemistry classes.”
I know Mr. Reynolds – he is a great teacher and as solid a citizen as you could ever hope to find. He told me in an email that he wanted to give the district the chance to correct the overcrowding in chemistry classes – but their response was not what he was looking for.
Juan Lopez, associate superintendent of human resources for Santa Ana Unified, said the state Science Safety Handbook provides guidelines for class sizes, but does not set down legal requirements.
SAUSD Science Teacher Gary Reynolds speaks out about dangerous overcrowding in chemistry classes at school board meeting on Sep. 22
Reynolds said the state’s Science Safety Handbook, developed by the state Department of Education, limits science classes to the designed capacity of classrooms. He said capacity of chemistry classes is 32 students because each room was designed with four lab stations, each with eight seats. Currently, chemistry classes have 36 students; an extra chair was added at the end of each station to absorb the additional students.
As a certified Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response instructor I can tell you that school chemistry labs are potentially very dangerous. Students work with materials that are flammable, caustic and corrosive. If you have too many students in such a classroom, it can become difficult to monitor what they are doing.
Such classrooms are equipped with emergency showers and eye wash stations. That should tell you something! It has also been my personal experience that most schools don’t properly maintain that equipment. They don’t inspect it and they don’t flush the shower water lines. Bacteria can collect in these lines and really cause a problem should someone have to use them in a real emergency.
I know of one school, in Los Angeles, where a teacher accidentally forgot to turn off a burner and the gas ended up flowing downward towards the students. Such gases are heavier than air and in this case the gas collected on the floor, found an ignition source, and ended up burning several students’ legs.
Obviously overcrowding a classroom with flammable materials can make it harder to evacuate during a fire.
The sad thing is that the SAUSD has a ton of money in reserve that could be used to fix this problem. They have a solution but instead, Lopez is saying that “I would like every class size to be smaller. But the issue here is practicality.”
No Mr. Lopez. The issue here is safety – and risk management. Kudos to Mr. Reynolds for sticking his neck out. He realizes that chemistry teachers and their students are at risk – and that is unacceptable.
So what can parents of Santa Ana High School students do? Click here to send an email to the SAUSD with your concerns. You can also call SAUSD Superintendent Jane Russo at (714) 558-5512. Call her today and be sure to leave a voice mail message.