WALDPORT — Students at Crestview Heights Elementary School were evacuated around 10 a.m. on Wednesday after reports of a strong diesel smell wafting through one of the hallways.
Crestview was evacuated multiple times in the past few months, with reports of boiler problems and evacuations becoming a persistent problem for the small community school. Some parents say the ongoing issue with the boiler system at the school is getting increasingly frustrating.
Central Oregon Coast Fire & Rescue came to the campus to investigate the source of the diesel smell. While the smell stopped after about 10 minutes, according to a statement from the Lincoln County School District, the fire department gave the all-clear for students to return to school after finding the source of the smell.
“Our facilities manager, Tim Kaufman, concurred with the chief’s assessment for students to return to the building,” read a statement from the Lincoln County School District. “Fire Chief Gary Woodsen believes that the smell originated from the Waldport High School boiler.”
The statement goes on to say the boiler at Waldport High School produced the fumes, which might have come into the Crestview Heights building through an open door at the back of the school.
The fire department, the school district statement went on to say, checked the Crestview Heights boiler, which was deemed to not be involved in the incident and that there was no carbon monoxide at Crestview Heights, or around either boiler room at the elementary school or the high school.
The superintendent of the school district, Karen Gray, came to Crestview Heights to look at the situation. Kaufman, the district facilities manager, looked at the Waldport High boiler and determined it was in “good working condition,” as the statement said.
Parent Anna Biszantz challenged that conclusion.
“I’ve heard from staff the boiler is always on the fritz,” Biszantz said. “The boiler is broken down all the time. It needs to be tossed, but they don’t want to fix it because it’s going to cost the county money.”
Biszantz has been critical of the school’s handling of the odors.
“I’m glad they’re evacuating now, because before, they didn’t,” said Biszantz. “But their explanation of the problem is a little bunk.”
Despite the district’s assurance there are no more boiler problems at the school, Biszantz hopes Waldport parents turn out for the next school board meeting to talk about the issue that she says continues to elude district officials.
“It would be amazing if the school board came back to Crestview Heights and it would be wonderful to have a show of parents,” Biszantz said. “I’m happy they’re starting to take it seriously, but they’re not taking it seriously enough to fix it.”