A week after a science explosion at South Cache injured dozens of students and a teacher, things are settling back to normal.

Last Thursday, teacher Lance Hansen was performing an experiment called the "screaming jug" with his eighth-grade class. He had done the experiment once before, but for an unknown reason, the second time, the 5-gallon jug and the methanol vapors exploded.

Two students spent the night at Logan Regional Hospital after minor surgery to fix damage to their faces, arms and shoulders. Both were released within two days. Thirteen students and Hansen were taken to the hospital by ambulance and treated for minor injuries. Another 18 students were taken to the hospital by bus to be checked out.

School was back in session Monday. Uninjured students were sent home late Thursday morning and classes at the campus were canceled Friday.

Counselors and social workers were available for students who wanted to talk about the incident. The entire science class met with counselors Monday to talk and go through some exercises.

Kurt McRae, Cache County School District human resources director, said the administration recognizes that students have a lot to deal with, both physically and emotionally.

"We are making every accommodation we need to for the students," he said. "We are absolutely having leniency with those involved."

Hansen is back in the classroom. No disciplinary action or criminal charges are planned, according to McRae.

"The way we look at it is that it was an accident from the beginning," said McRae.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation. The school district requested that information collected by various law enforcement agencies not be released to the media. All information must come from the district.

"There is a lot of speculation about the cause, but we still don't know, but are looking into it," McRae said.

The classroom itself is back to normal. The windows at the back of the room blew out as a result of the explosion, and glass throughout the room broke.

McRae said all medical costs are being covered by the school's insurance.

One of the questions people have asked is if students were wearing eye protection. McRae said he thought the students were not, as the experiment was considered harmless and there was no need for that type of equipment.

But at least one expert said it is always better to be safe.

Jim Kauffman, director of the Laboratory Safety Institute in Massachusetts, said the "whooshing bottle" or "screaming jug" experiment that Hansen was performing is usually fun and interesting.

"But you need to do this under conditions that take the risk down to an acceptable level," he said.

Among the safety precautions he recommends are using a plastic jug, or wrapping clear packing tape around a glass one.

He also recommended that all students wear eye protection at all times.

"You just always have to be careful to control all the factors you can," he said.

McRae said more safety plans will be implemented both in the lab and at the school.

"Safety is always a factor in our considerations," he said. "We did have an emergency plan at the school and it was implemented flawlessly. It's a real credit to the teachers and the administrators there."

More information about safe labs is available at www.labsafety.org.


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