Investigators deemed odor at Cesar E. Chavez High ‘non-toxic’; school followed protocols, officials say

September 12, 2019 /

The Kern County Agriculture Commissioner Office sent investigators to Cesar E. Chavez High Thursday morning after receiving reports of a concerning odor on campus and determined the odor was non-toxic, according to officials.

An herbicide called Pendulum was applied before 5 a.m., leaving a lingering odor, causing parents and students to worry about safety. Agriculture Commissioner investigators found there were no protocol violations, according to a statement released by the school district.

“I believe the school handled this very well,” according Monica Weinberg, the supervisor for pesticide enforcement for the Kern County Agriculture Commissioners Office.

Pendulum is a commonly used herbicide used in landscaping as a way to kill weeds, according to Weinberg.

“If you follow the label properly, it should pose no risk,” said Weinberg.

Delano Joint Union High School District officials called the herbicide harmless.

“It’s a totally harmless residual odor,” said Sheryl Alexander, the superintendent’s secretary. “It’s just an unpleasant smell.”

School officials say they followed protocol when it came to applying the herbicide. The school informed parents of the herbicide application in a packet sent out at the beginning of the school year and posted a notice on campus 48 hours prior to the application. According to the notice, the intended application date was Wednesday.

Multiple classrooms were evacuated to the school’s auditorium and gym due to the odor, according to a statement released by the district.

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority,” the Delano Joint Union High School District said in a statement.

Despite students reporting having headaches, a hard time breathing and feeling light headed as a result of the odor, Alexander said the herbicide presents no health risks.

However, this didn’t stop parents from pulling their kids out of school for the day.

Valerie Gorospe pulled her daughter out of school just after 10 a.m. because her daughter has asthma.

Gorospe said her daughter’s asthma can be triggered by many chemicals, especially those of the gardening nature.

“I am not familiar with the herbicide,” Gorospe said. “I don’t know enough information to feel okay with her being in school.”

Weinberg said she received calls this morning from concerned parents. She said the department is available to answer any questions or address any concerns community members may have regarding pesticide-related issues.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.