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Sandy High maintenance steps up to new challenges

-  Maintenance workers Tom Newell and Brian Oxford always have something new to look forward to in their day to day job


Sandy High School maintenance workers Tom Newell and Brian Oxford have found themselves with a whole new challenge in the massive state-of-the-art facility.

Monday, March 3, through Friday, March 7, is Classified School Employee Appreciation Week, and Oregon Trail School District Superintendent Aaron Bayer wanted to give the two maintenance guys some credit. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Sandy Classified Staff are being thanked this week for all their work. Monday, March 3, they were provided with frozen yogurt.

Newell, 62, and Oxford, 45, both of Sandy, are involved daily in the everyday activities of a maintenance worker at the high school. They make sure the basketball hoops lower and rise accordingly; they are ready to fix cafeteria table legs if needed; are called upon if a toilet doesn’t flush; and much more. But their job description goes far beyond what you’d expect.

Sandy High is a high-tech, 300,000-square-foot machine, and maintaining it is quite a challenge.

In preparation for their positions at the school, Newell and Oxford underwent 400 hours of training to learn how to operate the high-tech systems. “And they probably could have used twice as much,” said Jim Seipel, Oregon Trail facility operations supervisor.

According to Newell, there are not enough hours in the day to account for all the job responsibilities the two of them have. In addition to being responsible for Sandy High School, Oxford, who has been with the district for six years, also runs maintenance for Oregon Trail Academy and Kelso Elementary.

Newell, who has been with the district seven years, is in charge of maintenance for the Pioneer building on Bluff Road and back-up maintenance for the Sandy Pool. He also is the district locksmith and is a licensed electrician, making him a go-to for electrical problems within the district.

At the beginning of their day, after having checked on the other campuses they are responsible for, Newell and Oxford go over all the systems in the school. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean doing a lap of the entire school. All of Sandy High’s systems are available to view and control via computer.

After ensuring that the school’s temperature is nice and stable, Newell and Oxford often do a “roof jump” — they climb onto Sandy High’s roof to check on the 26 air handling units, “three of which you could live in,” Newell said. “They are that huge.”

In addition to the chilling system, which heats and cools air and water out of the same room, Sandy High School’s maintenance concerns include more than 30 miles of underground pipe that deliver tempered water to the school, a 330-gallon holding tank for collected rain water used for flushing the toilets, a pump room — “It requires a lot of attention,” Newell said — and a pH neutralization system for the water coming out of the science wing, assuring that no experiments get mixed into the city’s system after they leave the building.

“It’s been a challenge,” Newell said. “We’re converting from a maintenance position, where you use a wrench and a screwdriver, to high tech-sleuthing using a computer.”

“But sometimes we still do use a wrench,” Oxford added.

Oxford enjoys that every day of his job brings something new.

Newell is sure this is the job he’ll retire from, if the school doesn’t shut down without him.by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Newell, 62, and Oxford, 45, are neighbors outside of work, and work side by side maintaining the 300,000 square foot high school.

“These guys deal with just about anything that comes up, short of classroom instruction and answering phones,” Seipel said. “They’re keeping everything functioning so that teaching and learning can happen.”