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Excessive heat and wildfire smoke moved student athletes indoors last summer, resulting in overheated gymnasiums

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County School Board approved the addition of air conditioning for each of the high school gyms.

Crook County School District Board members gave approval to add air conditioning to the two Crook County High School gymnasiums last week during a special meeting.

"I'm not willing to go into August again with the heat levels that we had in the tin can of a gym in August. We literally endangered kids' lives," said Board President Scott Cooper at an earlier board meeting.

CCSD Facilities and Safety Director Leland Bliss said there was a perfect storm a couple of days late last summer when fall sports teams began practicing.

"We had massive smoke outside, we had to bring students inside, and unfortunately, when we brought the students inside, all of the air handlers were completely shut down because we were sandblasting the bathroom remodels, and the ventilation system was picking that up and distributing that into the gym," Bliss said. "There was no airflow into the gym."

At the June 10 board meeting, Bliss proposed installing ceiling fans in the non-air conditioned main gym. Four 14-foot fans would have cost an estimated $33,000.

Board members weren't satisfied with the fan idea, so they agreed to meet the following week in a special meeting after Bliss had come up with some other options.

Ultimately, the board decided to add air conditioning to the two CCHS gyms.

Bliss said the project is estimated to cost between $60,000 and $80,000. The funds will be taken from the Maintenance Reserve.

Environmental Controls, which has a service center in Redmond, is one of the contractors for the job. Last week, Bliss worked with them to start the site plan to install a DX Cooling System.

While some details of the project are still being worked out, Bliss said they are trying to finish the project as quickly as possible with the goal of the gyms being cooler in time for fall athletes to practice indoors if necessary.

He said the air conditioning installation work will not affect the usage of either gym because most of the work will be done in the duct work in the attic space and outdoors.

Board members and administrators were pleased with the decision to add a cooling system to the gyms and say it might even attract more events.

"We need to do something, whether for the smoke issue or not," said CCHS Principal Michelle Jonas. "The volleyball season is pretty rough not only for practices, but then you throw a bunch of spectators in there, and it can be pretty uncomfortable."

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