Investments in heating, cooling modernize campuses across the district

The 2016 school bond is funding new Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems at schools across the district.

Gordon Russell Middle School’s HVAC system included many original parts that hadn’t been replaced since the school was first built in 1977. With a failingHVAC system and sealed windows, the wildly ranging temperatures throughout the school year made it difficult for Russell’s educators to teach and for students to learn.

Terry Taylor, facilities director with the District, recalled the challenges with Gordon Russell’s unreliable old system. With 1970s-era tape holding the ductwork together, the rest of the system couldn’t function properly. “Basically, the duct work was truly held together with duct tape. Thanks to the 2016 school bond, we were able to go in there with a state of the art sheet metal duct system that will last for a hundred years. This will create cost efficiency in the long term, and it is built to last for generations of students.”

Gordon Russell Middle School Principal Rolland Hayden was warned about the building’s heating system when he took the job over seven years ago.

“I quickly understood the concern,” Principal Hayden recalled. “We had no windows that opened in the building. Different systems would fail on any given day. It was never a predictable system. There would be sections of the building that would be really hot and sections where you need a blanket. Our students and staff were suffering just trying to adjust while we were trying to deliver exceptional instruction.”

Teachers would run multiple loud box fans in their classrooms just to stay cool.

Hayden jokingly earned the nickname of “Junior HVAC Technician” after years of working with the building’s head custodian to try and create temporary fixes to the broken system. “I would dress in black clothes and immediately get covered in dust.”

Gordon Russell was one of a number of schools across the District to receive an overhauled HVAC system as part of the 2016 bond. Dexter McCarty Middle School’s fifty-year old HVAC system was similarly replaced with a modern, efficient, reliable system, at West Orient Middle School New HVAC systems were installed in 10 classrooms,and Highland Elementary School received new boilers. The four major bond-funded project’s – North Gresham Elementary, East Gresham Elementary, Sam Barlow High School and Gresham High School – also now have modernized heating and cooling systems. As part of the improvements, both Gordon Russell and Dexter McCarty each got new roofs as well, enhancing the energy efficiency and saving the district money on energy costs. 

Construction crews started the HVAC overhaul in March, and were able to finish ahead of schedule with the schools empty of students due to the pandemic. The building now has reliable heating and cooling in every hallway and classroom. When students return, they will no longer have to worry about wearing gloves and hats in the classroom, or try to listen to teachers speaking over loud fans in place to keep cool. 

Principal Hayden expressed gratitude for passage of the bond, and the impact this will have on students across the district. “Both of my kids attend Gresham-Barlow Schools. I can say wholeheartedly that the bond has improved learning environments for our kids, as someone who lives it and sees it everyday. I’m thankful the community passed this bond, and I’m excited for what students will get to experience when they return to the classrooms.”