Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

The heavy snow that was dumped on Baker City roofs in December and January and the ice buildup that followed has complicated preschool attendance for some of the community’s youngest learners.

Half of the Baker City Center of Eastern Oregon Head Start sustained water damage when ice clogged the gutters and caused the roof to leak and the walls of the modular building to take on water, said Tammie McEnroe, disabilities and mental health manager and administrator at the Baker City Center.

The Baker City Head Start serves 73 preschoolers who are split between two morning classes and two afternoon classes, said Director of Eastern Oregon Head Start Jan Goodrick, whose office is on the campus of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. In addition to the Baker City Center, the program also offers free preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in the communities of La Grande, Union and Elgin.

Half of the Baker children are continuing to attend classes in one of two 1,100-square-foot classrooms housed in the 5,000-square-foot building that was erected at 1927 16th St. in November of 2004.

The other half are meeting with their teachers during regular once-a-week home-based visits designed to keep them on track for meeting their personal and classroom goals, McEnroe said.

“I appreciate everybody cooperating,” Goodrick said.

The water issues were first discovered when classes resumed after Christmas break. The first step after the problem was identified was to call Hanley Engineering seeking an inspection to ensure that the building was safe for children and staff to occupy, McEnroe said.

The south half of the building was found to be sound and classes continued as usual for those children, McEnroe said.

The north side, on the other hand, suffered water damage and required corrective action to prevent more problems.

“Water ran under the shingles, the roof decking and insulation and down the wall,” said Tanner Krewson, who works for One Call Restoration and Accelerated Construction. The La Grande companies are owned by Bret Wheeler of La Grande.

“We tried Baker first, but we couldn’t find anyone who could do the work,” Goodrick said.

Before workers could begin to repair the damage, they first had to remove the 18-inch-tall ice dams and the 4 feet of snow atop the roof. Initially workers used bars, shovels and hammers. Krewson later employed a steam machine modified by Wheeler that propelled steam over the frozen rooftop layers.

Krewson estimated the machine, which is used routinely in the eastern U.S., could remove 25 to 30 feet of the deep ice and snowpack in about an hour with no damage to the roof or the gutters as opposed to the labor-intensive and time-consuming prying, chipping and shoveling required when using the other tools.

Demolition work included tearing out wet insulation and ceiling and floor tiles and drying everything. That job was finished last week.

Reconstruction has begun this week and the students who have been receiving home-based instruction should be able to return to their classroom early next week, McEnroe said.

The Head Start program, which is federally funded, first had to seek approval from Region 10 officials in Seattle before providing the home-based services to the 37 preschoolers who were displaced by the damage to the building, Goodrick said. In addition to meeting in students’ homes, some children and their families also have gathered at the library or in other space for their sessions.

The ice and snow caused more trouble than a leaky roof around the building, McEnroe said. Ice froze around and inside the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit at the north end of the building, requiring the school to turn to its emergency heating system to continue operation.

See more in the Feb. 1, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.