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Schools ready for students

The new school year is imminent, and reports are that all systems are go!

The school board got updates on those systems — particularly technology, transportation and facilities — at its regular meeting Aug. 22.

Director of Technology Tod Hilstad told the board that his team had been working on getting Windows 7 upgrades in as many machines as met the minimum standards to run them.

“Only 50 percent of the equipment base met the minimum standards to begin work,” Hilstad said. “We went to Columbia Gorge (Education Service District) and brought in $100,000 worth of recycled equipment and were able to refresh about 280 computers.

“We also added 50 new computers and some iPads,” he said. “We’ve received some grants, from Insitu, Google and others.”

Hilstad also said that the district website has been upgraded, and will now have improved social media, simple sign-on, apps for smartphones, calendar subscriptions and improved browser capability.

Future challenges for the technology department include the aging telephone system and improving systems for data management, he said.

Transportation director Cindy Sim told the board that the 36 bus drivers had completed a two-day driver in-service training session, including time behind the wheel of a “skid car” (as reported in the Aug. 22 Hood River News).

“They also completed Operation Lifesaver training,” she said, “so we’re all caught up in training.”

Sim also said that the fleet is “polished and ready to go” and that the transportation department now boasts a lift for mechanics and has installed diagnostic software.

“We’ve had a busy summer,” she said. “We reconfigured the routes and by doing so were able to better accommodate the bell schedule at Wy’east; we’ve cleaned up the routes and given them more consistency, which saves money.”

Supt. Charlie Beck added that the savings she found “would be the equivalent of half of a teacher.”

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See the new bus routes on pages A6-7.

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Facilities Director Randall Johnston described the summer’s projects at each of the schools, saying “The schools look fabulous!”

(Look for details on school improvements in an upcoming edition of the News.)

Johnston said that his department is in the process of putting together an integrated pest management policy for the schools.

“It’s two to four weeks out,” he said. “We’ve already done training with the custodial and kitchen staff.”

He also said that Parkdale Elementary is being looked at as a possible site for a biomass boiler, at the request of Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether.

“It’s a long-range project,” Johnston said. “It’s at least four years out. Mount Adams Resource Stewards are doing a feasibility study — it’s not a fast-track project.”

Johnston said that the Oregon Energy Trust has provided a $6,000 grant to recalibrate the model used in the Hood River Middle School building, to study how it’s doing.

“The dashboard is now working,” he said, referring to the central dashboard that tracks resource system information such as onsite rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment and solar power generation, so that students can monitor the buildings’ resource flows.

When asked about energy savings resulting from energy-efficient upgrades made to facilities during the latest construction bond projects, Johnston answered that energy savings are meeting what they’re supposed to meet, but there’s still room for improvement.

“From now, the biggest improvement will be from behavior modification,” he said.

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In other district news, Food Services Director Christi Harris sent out a news bulletin regarding new school meal requirements, most of which will begin implementation this year.

According to the bulletin, the school district’s food service department has already been gradually making many of these changes, but a few new ones might be confusing for the students.

Among the biggest changes:

n Students will now be required to have ½ cup of fruit or vegetables or a combination of the two on their tray for it to count as a full meal. A variety of fruits and vegetables is offered daily to give the students the opportunity to select what they will eat.

n There will be three different age groups; K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Before, there were only two age groups which left some of the younger students with way too much food. Portion sizes and recipes will be designed to meet the specific age groups.

n The department is now limited as to how much meat/meat alternate (cheese, yogurt, etc.) and grains it can offer. This means main entrees may not be as large as they have been; fruits and vegetables will not be limited, however.

New requirements that have already been in place in the district include offering whole-grain-rich foods for at least half of the grains offered; offering legumes and dark green and orange/red vegetables weekly; and reducing sodium levels.

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For more information on the new school year visit the school district website: www.hoodriver.k12.or.us.

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