EDITORIAL: Slow close causes concern

Lariat Editorial Board

Saddleback and Irvine Valley College’s obscene disregard for their students’ health and well-being last week was something of legend.

The school kept classes in session while toxic smoke from the Santiago Canyon fire was smothering both campuses in a thick, sickening cloud.

Both campuses are open-air facilities, which means that students were forced to walk from their cars, to their classes, and back. Normally, this wouldn’t be considered much of a struggle for the average student, but when the air is a poison, it makes for an awful experience.

On Monday, Oct. 22 classes weren’t canceled until 3 p.m., which was far too late, considering that classes started at 6 a.m.

The smoke was stinging the eyes and burning the throats of students while they walked to their respective classes Monday, but the school waited nine long hours to make the decision to cancel classes–a shut down that lasted all of 16 hours.

Tuesday’s, Oct. 23, smoke was considered far worse compared to that on Monday, and yet the schools remained open all day.

Students were complaining of migraines and those with health issues, such as asthma, had to suffer through the haze while making the attempt to concentrate on their class-work.

Several instructors canceled classes, giving themselves and students a break from the harsh environment, yet school officials did nothing.

Wednesday, Oct. 24 saw another shutdown, but not until 2 p.m., giving Transfer Day adequate time to keep students outside to choke on the harsh fog and raining ash. Ironically enough, the turnout for the event was abysmal because very few students wanted to be outside in the first place.

With the next day bringing what was considered the worst day of the ordeal, it was thought by many that classes shouldn’t be in session at all.

Unfortunately, these people aren’t the ones who make the decisions.

It wasn’t until nearly noon on Thursday, Oct. 25 when the call was made to shut down the schools for more than just a few hours and classes were to resume Monday, Oct. 29. The responsible thing was finally done, but it took nearly a week of putting students’ lives at risk to do what was right.

The decision to close down for an extended period of time should have been a fast and simple one.

If the schools’ sports teams aren’t allowed to practice outside, then non-athletes shouldn’t be subjected to the smoke either. If students are wearing protective masks to shield themselves from the detrimental effects of the smoke, that’s probably a good indication that something is wrong.

With a large amount of midterms being scheduled during the fires, it was downright disgusting that Saddleback and IVC students were forced to suffer through the smoke and take the exams, which largely impact students’ grades.

Tests can be rescheduled, lectures can be modified, events can be postponed, but the health of the students should have been the highest priority of school officials.

It was painful to watch fellow students subjected to such harsh conditions while the powers that be did little to improve the situation.