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"Volunteer army powers Jewell School projects"

Last month, the school spent $10,600 to install a 12-panel, 3 kilowatt solar array that will help keep its new barn powered off the grid. “It’s what we call an off-grid system,” said volunteer Cliff Schrock, a retired electrical engineer who’s helping install the new array, while teaching periodic classes in Jewell School on his trade. “A lot of people live off-grid with this amount of power.”

By EDWARD STRATTON
The Daily Astorian
 
>>click here for original article

JEWELL — Motoring in a small cart up a back drive on Jewell School District’s sprawling, 80-acre campus, Maintenance Supervisor Ryan Sunnell pulls up next to a brand new 7,000-square-foot barn raised by an army of volunteers Jewell never seems in shortage of.

The barn, which already houses some of the animals from the Nehalem Valley Livestock 4-H club, is one of several projects taking shape up the hill from Jewell School, including a solar array on its roof, a new baseball field, a community garden and an ever-expanding trail system.

“It’s all we have out here,” said Sunnell about Jewell School and its outlying buildings. “There’s no police force. We don’t have a city council or anything. We have the school. The school is everything out here to this community.”

The barn, he said, will have cost about $120,000 to complete, a figure knocked down by all the volunteer labor. The wood for the barn was taken from and milled on campus.

Sunnell’s always been busy making the campus more efficient, adding that small fixes over the last two years have reduced the school’s electricity use by about 40 percent. “We also did the same with our heating bill. We did all this for about $5,000.”

He, other staff and students installed a rainwater collection system on the barn that keeps the animals watered until July.

Last month, the school spent $10,600 to install a 12-panel, 3 kilowatt solar array that will help keep its new barn powered off the grid.

“It’s what we call an off-grid system,” said volunteer Cliff Schrock, a retired electrical engineer who’s helping install the new array, while teaching periodic classes in Jewell School on his trade. “A lot of people live off-grid with this amount of power.”

The 12 solar panels were donated by SolarWorld USA out of Hillsboro. The inverter used to control the system was made by OutBack Power Systems of Arlington, Wash., and sold to the district at-cost by Platt Electric.

The volunteers form Platt Electric and Synchro Solar were organized by Solar Oregon, a nonprofit education and community outreach group for solar power.

“We help organizations to go solar by leveraging our relationships to help get these projects going,” said Claire Carlson of Solar Oregon.

She said the off-grid systems engage people in their own power consumption, forcing them to prioritize their energy use, as there’s no backup.

The barn, which Sunnell hopes to have finished this summer, serves as a 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) center and will house shop and other classes from the school. A greenhouse on the side will be used by the horticulture class, and ideas as wide-ranging as a barn dance have been mentioned for the structure.

“As a shop teacher, I see it as an extension of the shop,” said Jim Fleishman, the vocational education teacher at Jewell. “It’s more than a barn, for sure.”

Students help in the building effort

“I think every shop class has been involved,” said 16-year-old junior Seth Somerjian, adding that students have been helping with wiring, framing and other parts of building the barn.

Students at Jewell, through a program titled Great Success, have become accustomed in the past to lavish senior trips – Honolulu, New York City, Boston and a planned trip to Europe – given them by the district. Next year’s seniors are planning their own trip to Costa Rica to plant trees, build bridges, expand their understanding of the world and, of course, enjoy themselves.

The district set aside money for the trip in next year’s budget, but this time around, the students will have to earn it working on some of the many projects under way on Jewell’s 80-acre campus.

Each senior, said 17-year-old junior Ryan Harhart, will have to raise about $3,000 between working at the school and their own fundraisers.

“We’re doing bridge projects, reinstalling two different bridges,” said 17-year-old junior Brooklyn Gnuschke about the 10-day trip to Costa Rica, adding that the district set aside a $16,000 fund for students to earn money from.

And there are plenty of projects to earn from.

Next to the greenhouse, Sunnell is planning a large community garden.

Sheriff’s offices from Washington, Clatsop, Multnomah, Clackamas, Yamhill and Marion counties, which perform search and rescue training around Jewell, used their inmate work crews last winter to punch out a 2-mile trail in the woods around Jewell School. The trail’s still rough in spots, and Sunnell will have students building two bridges along the route.

In addition to the trail work, the district last year removed the top soil for a baseball field just below the superintendent’s house. This summer, it will start leveling the playing field, planting and then constructing dugouts and other amenities.

“This is all volunteer labor on that,” said Sunnell, adding that the district chose to have the field ready in case enough players turn out. “Everybody’s brought their own equipment, time. We’ve really just had to pay for fuel.

“The labor put in (on all the projects) has been 80 percent volunteer. We couldn’t do this if people weren’t going to be volunteering.”

 
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