When teachers and students come back to Hermiston schools in the fall, they’ll notice some changes.

Maintenance and grounds staff have worked on a few major projects this summer, addressing some of the needs that would have been covered by a bond that failed last year: a new roof for Sandstone Middle School, and fencing around Rocky Heights and Highland Hills elementary schools.

District operations director Brad Wayland said the chain link fences around Rocky Heights and Highland Hills will be about four feet tall.

“Those are some measures to try and secure the sites a little better,” he said. “We can’t make it like a prison, but we need to make sure there’s a little more of a deterrent for the flow of folks passing through.”

Wayland said both those buildings are open-campus plans, and security upgrades for them were prioritized on the bond.

Facilities supervisor Martie McQuain said those schools may staff the gates during busy times to monitor who was coming through.

Last summer the district made some safety upgrades to West Park and Sunset elementary schools, setting up a system that allows doors to hallways with classrooms to be closed with the push of a button any time the school goes into lockdown. The district also built entrance areas with windows, where a front office worker could observe people coming in and let them in by pushing a button.

While the hallways door project has been completed, the front entrance project has not.

“Right now, the overall system doesn’t work with that,” Wayland said. “We’re looking at trying to upgrade that.”

Sandstone Middle School’s roof repairs are complete, a project Wayland said was high on the priority list from the bond. He said the roof cost about $850,000.

Though capacity was one of the main concerns for the district, Wayland said they did not add any modular classrooms this year.

“We will look at that over the course of the fall,” he said.

McQuain said they rearranged some classes to make better use of space.

“Sandstone had a smaller class in a bigger room,” he said. “We moved that around, and tried to fill in all the gaps we have.”

Wayland noted there were also a few empty classrooms that were used for testing and other purposes, but did not have a class in them full-time.

The district is renovating the two remaining buildings on the old Umatilla County Fairgrounds, Thompson and Hoeft halls. Hoeft Hall will be used for storage and equipment, and Thompson Hall will be used for special education classes. They made upgrades to the kitchen, made the bathroom handicap-accessible, and built a wall inside the building to separate the area where students will be from a recycling area.

In addition to special projects this summer, McQuain said his staff works throughout the year to maintain grounds.

“I have about 30 custodians, six groundsmen, three maintenance staff and two warehousemen,” McQuain said.

He said the staff deals with almost all maintenance, but Oregon law requires that certain jobs be completed by specific technicians.

“Our tradesmen will assist with electrical, HVAC and plumbing work,” he said. “We have a lot of skilled technicians, but they’re not allowed to do (certain tasks) per Oregon code.”

Throughout the summer, custodians at the middle and high schools stay in their own buildings, and a team of custodians will move between each of the elementary schools and do deep cleaning, which includes the windows and floors.

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