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Union concerned about shop class size

With students attending classes in cramped rooms, the Oak Harbor Education Association is concerned about safety in several of the career and technical classes at the high school.

The culinary arts class, metal fabrication and auto mechanics all have more than 30 students attending each class.

Union officials are concerned those classes are too crowded and the tight quarters will compromise student safety.

“There comes a point where it will endanger the safety of the students,” said Peter Szalai, president of the Oak Harbor Education Association.

The class size in each of those three classes are under the 33-student class limit that is specified in the union contract. Szalai said it would be safer if those classes were capped at 26 students. The number comes from talks with affected teachers and examining how many students the room is designed to handle. As an example, Szalai said the culinary arts classroom has six cooking stations, which can handle four students each.

Career and Technical Education Director Sandee Oehring said staff is meeting Monday to discuss a possible solution. She said there are several challenges that need to be resolved to balance the classes.

While enrollment in those three classes are high, enrollment in CTE classes as a whole is down, Oehring said. Any decision has to balance student safety with keeping a viable program.

She said there isn’t a lot of guidance available to determine safe class sizes. She had talked with the Office for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and CTE directors in other school districts, but didn’t have any solid information, so staff will have to work as a group to resolve the situation.

The career and technical classes will have a new home once the renovation of Oak Harbor High School is complete. Once that project is finished, there will be a new building and more room for career and technical classes.

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