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Teachers say construction at Orange County school presents safety hazard for students | #schoolsaftey

Samantha Cortese and Vivian Chow

As children are set to begin the school year this week, teachers at an Orange County elementary school are frustrated as unfinished construction on their classrooms has left the school a complete mess.

Teachers at Foothill Ranch Elementary are frustrated as the school is still undergoing a massive modernization project that started back in June. But now that the school year is about to start on Monday, the teachers’ classrooms still remain a construction zone.

“We’re supposed to start school and I have none of my materials,” said a teacher at Foothill Ranch Elementary. “We don’t have paper towels or soap and we have no Wi-Fi. Most of the campus doesn’t have air conditioning yet. It’s very hot.”

After nine weeks of construction, teachers said the school is not ready to welcome students and the current environment presents a safety hazard.

“Would you want your child to be coming to this school site in one day? Probably not,” a teacher is heard saying in a video showing the school hallways littered with boxes and construction materials while workers walk around with hardhats on.

School supplies are still packed away in boxes and bags, no desks are ready to be moved in yet and even toilets have not been installed.

“We only have one working bathroom for a staff of over 40 and students over 1,000,” the teacher said.

The school district tells KTLA that more than 90 people have been working 12-16 hour days and seven days a week on the construction project.

Improvements include new monitors, classroom technology, electrical and plumbing upgrades, new bathrooms, a new STEM lab, ADA upgrades, new carpet, an interior and exterior paint refresh, and more.

“We are excited for when this project will be done, but it’s just not done quite yet,” the teacher said.

No toilets were installed yet as teachers at Foothill Ranch Elementary School said the construction provides a major safety hazard for students set to start school soon. (KTLA)

Educators said the district had offered up to 16 hours of extra pay for anyone who chose to spend time preparing their classrooms outside of their contracted work hours, but most believe that effort still won’t make welcoming students on Monday feasible.

A statement from the Saddleback Valley Unified School District said in part:

“We thank the teachers, site leadership, and extended staff at Foothill Ranch for their dedication to our students and understanding that their classroom upgrades and modernizations will be ready and safe for students to attend school on August 14, 2023.

In recognition that their days at the school prior to the first day may look a little different, SVUSD is offering them up to 16 hours of extra pay, should they choose to work beyond their contracted hours, to prepare their classrooms. We also turned our Professional Development days into set up time for teachers.  Teacher lesson planning and collaborating with teams prior to the start of school can be done on-site or off-site.”

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