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Superintendent of Schools Karen Gray responds to criticism of Waldport Schools

From LC Schools Superintendent Karen Gray

Dear Crestview Heights Elementary School Parents, Friends and Family,

We are deeply concerned with the events that have resulted in a mistrust of our ability to keep students and staff safe in our school. This year we had a boiler misfire that happened in late January, the noxious odor event from 4/2 and the event on Wednesday 4/10 of having the wind bring in more noxious odors. These events have resulted in mistrust and heightened concern about whether we, as the Lincoln County School District, are doing everything we can to address the issue. We are aware that caring adults have reached beyond our District to seek help in drawing attention to the problems we’re experiencing. The District is speaking with these people.

We want you to know that we are not in the field of education in order to cause stress or harm to children. That is the total opposite of why we work in LCSD. We care deeply about the health and safety of our children and staff. All of us are in education because we care about children. We want our teachers and support staff to be able to get back to the hard work of teaching your children. The following is a list of actions we have taken so far:

1. We have worked with experts on Carbon Monoxide (CO), such as the Central Coast Fire Department, to give us clearance for any return to the building. The Fire Chief himself checked our classrooms and gave the OK to return.

2. We have followed our safety protocols for evacuation and notification when a noxious odor is in the building.

3. We have hired outside experts from PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc. (a nationally known expert in the field of environmental health and safety) and had an independent investigation from SAIF Safe and Healthy Workplaces – which was not initiated nor paid for by the School District. Both of these organizations conducted a thorough evaluation and testing of the building and the boiler, and have published those reports. (Full reports are on the website: https://lincoln.k12.or.us/our-district/public- reports/)

4. We have had two staff meetings and one public meeting to discuss the findings of these reports and to address concerns.

5. We installed 97 new CO detectors in Waldport Middle and High and Crestview Heights Elementary School. That is one CO Detector in every classroom. None of the CO detectors were triggered by these events and remained at zero.

6. We have also contracted with Groth Gates to raise the stack on the roof of the boiler room 8 feet to get the smoke up and out of the area higher and faster. This hasn’t happened yet but we have contracted with them for the work already.

7. We have had the boilers inspected by Tom Brown, the LCSD Boiler specialist. After the misfire, the jet and screen for the jet were cleaned out. The boiler was run to burn off excess fuel. The boiler was then taken apart again and checked to make sure the jet and screen were clean. The boiler was started up again and ran clean. After that point, every 10 days we are changing the fuel filters on the boiler. They have been deemed to be in good working order. They were in good working order on April 10th.

8. I have personally met with Senator Arnie Roblan in order to introduce a state bill to require CO detectors to be installed in all schools with fuel burning furnaces. He was very positive about the prospects.

The next portion of the letter is very important because I want to demonstrate to you that we are not done with our investigations of this matter and that we are definitely moving our ideas forward in hopes of resolving this.

Some of the new ideas we have moved forward on and will move forward on are:

1. On Thursday, April 11th, I called the Health Department requesting an environmental specialist to

study the school to see if they can find anything else we missed. On Friday 4/12/19 we had a discussion

with the Oregon Department of Education to request additional assistance from someone that is an

expert in environmental evaluations. A list of professionals will be sent to the district by the state and

we will then send the list of choices to a committee of parents that will select the final environmental

services company and begin a new study. The district will pay for the study. Results of the study will be

given by the parents with the district in the room and the meeting will be a facilitated meeting. We will

need parent volunteers for this committee work.

2. Beginning Monday, April 15, door use changes, parking changes and other ideas about how to control

air flow from the outside will be set into place. This includes contacting service providers such as

recycling, and re-fueling and asking them to reschedule their deliveries to a time when kids are not in

school. This includes asking folks that drive diesel trucks to not sit and idle them on our campus, near

our classrooms.

3. We have already begun the research into possible electric heating instead of diesel. Boilers don’t come

in electric run systems that can heat a building this size but we need to see what’s out there.

4. On Friday April 12, we took 6 samples to test for mold. The samples have been sent away to a

professional company for processing and the results will be back mid-week. We will report back on

that to the school.

5. On Friday April 12, our HVAC system expert, Tom Brown, checked at least 10 ducts for residual

materials and found the ducts to be clean. We may be asking for more duct work to done as well. It

costs $50,000 for all of the ducts to be cleaned.

6. We will investigate using a flue checking device we have or whether we need to purchase something


7. It has also been suggested that the district check the sulfur and nitrogen levels specifically in our

studies (the PBS study did that, too) and we will make sure to do that. Sulfur was checked in the SAIF


8. Finally, Facilities Director Rich Belloni called OSHA and requested Technical Assistance on this matter

and they are very willing to help us. He also called the DEQ April 15 to do the same.

Our intention is to create a document that lists everything we have done so far, everything we plan to do and

the results of that work and then communicate that with staff, parents and community in an attempt to better

our communication.

Another important piece of information is that it is not an option to use natural gas in Waldport, which is why we are using diesel burners. Natural gas which powers steam boilers cannot cross the Alsea Bay Bridge. We will be investigating the use of electric devices for heat and will keep you posted on that result.

We all want this issue to be resolved so that parents and families can feel assured that it is safe to bring their children to our schools, and feel at peace. We know that is not where we are with many of our parents right now, and we want and need that to change. We can improve communication and one way to do that is that we will be improving our communication protocol when an evacuation occurs. We will do our best to send out mass phone call messages and will continue to post to websites and social media.

In closing, as your Superintendent, I really want all of our parents, students, staff, and community to know that we take student and staff health and safety very seriously. We will continue to try different options, protocols, procedures and investigations to try to determine where these smells are coming from and how to stop them. The facts are that your children have not been exposed to CO on a daily basis, we are not poisoning your children and the district is not involved in a cover up. That is unfounded. Everything we have done so far, including the reports we have received, are listed here and the report results are on our website. Transparency means a lot to us, too.

Keep communicating and we will continue to work hard to keep our schools safe for your children and our staff. We continue to service and monitor our boilers more often than ever before and to investigate other environmental issues that may be causing headaches, and alternate ways to heat our school. I would like to give a shout out to those of you who have reached out to support the district in its efforts.


Dr. Karen Fischer Gray LCSD Superintendent

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