Six auxiliary units judged to be ready for winter, allowing the district to begin replacing defunct controller technology at the high school

Having just made approximately $4 million in budget cuts for the 2018-2019 school year, the Newberg School District isn't in a great position to replace HVAC equipment at Newberg High School, which has experienced problems heating the building in recent winters.

It appears the district, however, does not have to replace six auxiliary boilers at the high school this fall as director of facilities Larry Hampton had feared.

Hampton told the school board at its Aug. 6 meeting that those boilers, which are utilized mostly to support the two primary boilers when temperatures get very cold, were tested and are working, thanks mostly to the efforts of district HVAC technician Phillip Huntington.

"It's not the greatest time of year to trick the boilers into thinking it's cold, but he was able to get all of them to work," Hampton said. "There are still a few things he'd like to do on them and bring somebody into help tune them a little bit better. We were wondering if we were going to have to replace all six of those and now it looks like we don't need to replace any of them."

The district has set aside approximately $200,000 from construction excise tax revenue for emergency maintenance projects for this school year and because it won't have to spend it on the boilers, Hampton said he can begin addressing the longer-term problem of defunct HVAC controllers throughout the district.

The first project will be to replace the controllers – the hardware that carries instruction signals to equipment like boilers and air conditioners -- in Building J at the high school, a project for which he has already received a preliminary bid of $116,000. Hampton added that he will now move forward with the process to solicit more bids, but that he does not yet have a timeline for the project.

"It doesn't get us way ahead, but it does give us some spare parts and gets us moving forward and at least one piece of the district into the current generation of equipment," Hampton said. "But it also saves some money for some other things that might come up during the year."

Hampton told the board he hopes to continue tackling the problem bit by bit across the district until the board can secure a bond to fund update infrastructure district wide. The other project he considered starting with was Joan Austin Elementary, in part because it has the newest of the old technology, and would therefore provide the biggest bounty of spare parts, but that the initial bid came in at $204,000.

Board member Brandy Penner also thanked Hampton and his team for their continuing efforts on both the boilers and controllers.

"We are very fortunate to have Phillip Huntington as our HVAC person because he is not just a technician, but he knows the whole system, high level stuff as well as getting out and getting dirty doing the work," Hampton said. "We would not be in the place we are right now if we didn't have him."

The board gave a positive report of its annual retreat and, at least in part in response to a comment from a parent urging the district to share how it plans to earn back trust and be more transparent, said it would announce its specific plan to increase board outreach at its meeting Monday (which came after deadline for this story).

"The idea of interacting and reaching out is something that we really stress and is something that will hopefully be the hallmark of our year moving forward," chairman Bob Woodruff said. "There's a lot of exciting stuff going on. I don't think I'm being a Pollyanna when I say that I'm excited about the things coming up for us and that are going to be happening very shortly. Kids (are coming) back to school in less than a month, so it's getting down to crunch time."

Woodruff also announced board committee assignments for the coming year. Serving on the personnel committee will be Mindy Allison, Ron Mock and Penner, with Mock and Penner joining the board's newest member, appointee Rebecca Piros, on the policy committee. Woodruff himself will serve on the facilities committee with Allison and Todd Thomas, as well as on the finance committee with Thomas and Lydia Keuler.

"It really struck me last year just how important those committees are," Woodruff said. "One of the things that was really nice is that everybody has the spirit of wanting to help out the district the best they can rather than having a little niche they want to cubby hole themselves into. I want to thank everybody for that spirit of service."

Woodruff also announced the appointment of two new student representatives to the board, Owen Tenbrook and Alyssa Johnson, to join returner Melina Peña. For the first time, the board also assigned each student a mentor from the board, with Thomas signing on to work with Tenbrook, Penner taking on Johnson and Allison partnering with Peña.

"In the past all of our student representatives have done a fantastic job being a voice for other students in the community, but we've kind of put them into that role and then they fend for themselves," Woodruff said. "So this year, we've tried to be more proactive in helping answer questions and providing a point of contact on the board for our students."

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