Investigation shows that the 50-degree temperatures in some classrooms Dec. 12 were caused by isolated mechanical failure

Responding to a complaint about 50-degree temperatures in some classrooms at Newberg High School in December, the Newberg School District investigated the situation and found the cause to be a rather simple mechanical error.

Unsatisfied with the response he received after making some initial calls, parent Isaiah Lane complained to the school board during the public comment portion of its Dec. 12 meeting.

"My daughter's teacher says it was 50 degrees," Lane said to the board. "How can children learn in this environment? We can't wait for a bond. We need heat now, it's winter. What is being done? What can I do? How do we make this happen?"

Assistant Superintendent Dave Parker looked into the issue and reported back to the board in January, confirming that one of the two primary boilers at the high school did not start properly on Dec. 12, resulting in sub-60-degree temperatures in D Hall.

According to Parker's written report to the board, the malfunction was caused when the accompanying water pump failed to start before the boiler, causing it to overheat and shut down. The boiler and pump were restarted by the custodial staff at 8:35 a.m. and the room in question, D105, reached its regular target temperature (approximately 67 degrees) by 11:20 a.m.

The following day, D105 was up to temp by 5:37 a.m.

Parker's report included charts indicating there were no other failures in that room for the rest of the month.

Parker also found that the thermostat in D105 was properly calibrated, ultimately concluding that aside from occasional boiler start-up problems, the building is, by and large, heating properly.

Lane, who is an HVAC technician himself and previously worked for the school district about 10 years ago, was concerned the problem may be a longstanding one after getting a strong reaction to his social media post about the situation.

Parker said the high school did experience widespread and chronic problems following the installation of new control software as part of renovations funded by the bond passed by voters in 2011, but that those have since been addressed.

"We have not seen, lately, anywhere close to the number of events that we were having four years ago," Parker said.

Parker added that he has instructed custodial staff across the district to make checking the boilers the first thing they do each day.

Lane said that as far as he's concerned, only time and future cold snaps will tell if the problem is systematic in nature.

"I think the bigger issue is not about this one occurrence, but to know that if we're having ongoing problems, that somebody is out there working to fix it," Parker said. "I think that's what he really wanted to know. Were our facilities people out there working on it? Did they know? We want kids to be comfortable in the learning environment."

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