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.”


See the new bus routes on pages A6-7.


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.


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.


For more information on the new school year visit the school district website:

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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