A fire broke out in a science lab at Soule Road Middle School Thursday afternoon, injuring three eighth-grade students and a teacher. The teacher suffered burns to his hand, and three students sitting closest to the teacher were also burned. Two suffered burns to the face and neck.
Superintendent Dr. Richard Johns said the injured were transported by ambulance to area hospitals for treatment. The classroom sustained minor damage.
As of Friday morning, Johns said that all of the injured had been released from Upstate University Hospital except for one of the girls.
“I was at the hospital into the early evening last night, and I spoke to her shortly before I left,” Johns said. “She seemed to be in good spirits, but it was clear that she was going to be there a few more days.”
Johns said he didn’t have all the details of the incident, but what appears to have happened is that the teacher, who has not been identified, was conducting an experiment at the front of the class when methanol vapors ignited, sparking a small explosion. The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Fire Marshal are investigating.
Johns said he believed the teacher had conducted the experiment numerous times in the past. He declined to give details on the experiment, citing the sheriff’s investigation. He said more information would be available once the investigation was completed.
Johns said everyone is expected to be okay.
“One of the little gals was very cute,” Johns said. “She said, ‘Boy, am I glad you taught me how to stop, drop and roll in the first grade, Dr. Johns.’”
Johns said that there were extra counselors on hand at Soule Road Middle today, as well as extra security.
“Yesterday, Bob Shietz, the principal at Soule Road Middle School, had the students in,” Johns said. “It was a very shocking incident, obviously, for that entire building. He met with the students and they talked through what had occurred and how they could get some help if they needed it, some of them having witnessed some issues that were very unpleasant.”
Johns noted that Shietz also met with the staff, several members of which were also very shaken.
“Last report, classes were going very well,” Johns said.
The superintendent said that school did not dismiss early because it would have taken an hour for a special transport to have been arranged. By that time, it would have been time for regular dismissal anyway. He also wasn’t aware of any reports that kids were not permitted to contact their parents after the incident.
Johns said the school called the New York State Education Department in Albany because of the fire, and seventh- and eighth-graders at Soule Road Middle would not be taking their state tests on Friday. Instead they will take them during the makeup week.
THURSDAY: A fire broke out in a science lab at Soule Road Middle School Thursday afternoon, injuring three eighth-grade students and a teacher.
In an e-mailed Key Communicator, Superintendent Richard Johns said the injured were transported by ambulance to area hospitals for treatment. The classroom sustained minor damage.
The Soule Road complex was evacuated, but the fire department has since given the all-clear for students to return to the building. Johns said both schools will dismiss at the regular time.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.