Hermiston School District is ending 2020 with an unexpected expense after staff discovered major damage to the boiler in the “92 wing” of Hermiston High School.

The school board had a brief emergency meeting over Zoom on Thursday, Dec. 3, to declare an emergency regarding the boiler, allowing the district to immediately work with its contracted heating and air service to fix the problem rather than go through its usual lengthy bidding process.

The resolution passed Dec. 3 described the boiler failure as “catastrophic.” Katie Saul, director of business services for the district, told the board that a temporary fix was allowing the boiler to provide some heat for now, but the district would need to purchase a new boiler, which a preliminary quote showed would likely cost about $200,000.

“Right now we’re limping through with the current boiler but it’s only a matter of time before it fails, and this time of year we cannot be without heat in that part of the high school,” she said.

In an email to the East Oregonian, Superintendent Tricia Mooney said maintenance staff initially found evidence of the boiler leaking into a classroom, and investigation of the leak found a crack in the boiler. She said the boiler heats the wing of the school that includes the gym, fitness room, locker rooms and about 15 classrooms. For now, Mooney said, because staff have temporarily patched the leak and are adding extra water to nurse it along, no staff who are teaching from the school have been displaced from that wing.

She said the money for the new boiler and its installation will come out of the school district’s general fund.

The section of the school where the boiler failed was built in 1992. Other sections of the school opened in 2001 after the community passed a bond in 1999, and the district plans to add another wing to the high school using money from a bond passed in 2019.

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