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Broken Boiler Equals No Heat At School

As the temperature in Hermiston dipped into the teens, a tiny crack in the boiler at Rocky Heights Elementary School was spreading.

“We started losing it around January 1 and we limped it along for another week or so,” said Mike Kay, Hermiston school district’s director of support services.

The boiler eventually boiled its last brew Jan. 9. The modern replacement to the nearly 50-year-old machine will take another three to four weeks to arrive. In the meantime, faculty and students at Rocky Heights are making due with electric heaters and layers.

“We keep our jackets and gloves on,” said third-grader Peyton Herman, 8, of her classroom time.

“I’m not really close to the heater so I don’t like that,” said fifth-grader Nicholas Keeney, 11.

But third-grade teacher Jessica Campbell said the school district has been vigilant about keeping it tolerable inside, checking the temperature three times a day to make sure it is comfortable.

“I’ve been very impressed,” Campbell said. “At first students had extra clothes on just in case but now most of them aren’t coming with layers.”

The boiler heated a wing in the building that included 12 classrooms. The common spaces, cafeteria and kitchen are not affected. Currently, there are two electric heaters in each affected classroom.

The new boiler cost around $60,000. Kay said even though the wait may be inconvenient, the school district decided to spend time looking for the most efficient model and keep the classrooms open.

“It is better than the alternative, which would have been no school,” Campbell said. “We really couldn’t have afforded that.”

Contact Natalie Wheeler at or 541-564-4547.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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