- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - Fire officials say Medford classrooms were overcrowded during a teacher strike.

Teachers walked out last week, closing schools. The district reopened Tuesday after hiring security guards and about 200 substitute teachers, the Medford Mail Tribune (https://bit.ly/1erZVZl) reported. Schools days were also cut to four hours and some schools were combined.

Superintendent Phil Long said classrooms had as many as 45 students, but students told the newspaper that some classes had 60 or more. The district said only two-thirds of students reported, and Long said attendance is expected to rise.

A fire inspector went to several schools, Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Brian Fish said.

“They found some of the class populations to be a little larger than they would have liked for the rooms that they were in … they were over the occupancy load,” Fish said. “No big concern, no citations were issued.”

Instead of issuing citations, Fish said, the inspector talked to administrators about keeping classroom sizes smaller.

North Medford High School senior Gerardo Rodriguez said the class sizes resulted in an impromptu walkout by the seniors.

“It was a disaster,” he said. “People were sent into the common area, sent to the gym, the library. We were told to work on our projects, but there’s not really anything to work on. Our papers were due a month and a half ago.”

Long said “there are some things that didn’t go quite right,” and the district would make adjustments.

“Today was, I would say, a debacle,” said Dan Jones, vice president of the Medford teachers union.

The district is the largest in Southern Oregon and the eighth largest in the state. It has about 13,500 students. The union represents about 600 teachers.

The two sides resumed negotiations Wednesday with a state mediator. They are bargaining over pay, working conditions and retirement provisions.


Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/

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