Evan Thompson / The Record Wrestlers Logan Madsen, Hunter Newman, and head coach Jim Thompson leave the boys athletic locker room and head off to practice Thursday afternoon. The locker room has been cold the last two years until the South Whidbey School District made repairs this week, though the fix is only temporary.

Heat pump repairs warm South Whidbey athletes after chilly months in locker room

Athletes at South Whidbey High School are enjoying warm locker rooms for the first time in at least a year following repairs to heat pumps this week.

Cold that chilled the bones of athletes and coaches using the athletic locker rooms and other athletic facilities prompted a formal complaint by wrestling coach Jim Thompson around three weeks ago. Space heaters were placed in the locker room to create some heat, but temperatures were still not ideal. That was until the district’s maintenance staff fixed the issue this week.

While the district said it was unclear how long the issue has occurred, Thompson said it had been a problem for at least three years.

“Somebody listened and got on it so I’m really happy,” said Thompson, who is in his 13th year with the wrestling program. “Now we have a nice environment.”

The fix, however, is only temporary.

South Whidbey School District Maintenance Director Brian Miller said the 20-year-old heat pumps that service the main auditorium, auxiliary gym, mat room, boys and girls athletic locker rooms and part of the main office have started to fail. Repairs made this week are just a stop-gap until they can be replaced some time in the summer.

In addition, old HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) controls are also malfunctioning, which has prevented Miller and other maintenance staff from being able to stay up-to-date on temperatures in the facilities. It has also thrown the heat pumps off their ordinary schedule of warming up rooms at the start of a school day at around 6 a.m. and then weaning off in the afternoon after 3 p.m.

The South Whidbey School Board approved a $214,924 proposal on Oct. 12 to replace 73 field controllers at the northern and southern areas of the high school, but the process is still in the works, Miller said.

When working, the controllers indicate when a room is cold. Miller is essentially working blind when they are not.

“I don’t necessarily know unless someone calls,” Miller said. “…If we can’t make them run or monitor them from here, we can’t really know what’s going on until we get out in the field.

Temperatures had dipped to around 50 degrees in the athletic locker rooms, while the mat room and auxiliary gyms have dropped to 57 degrees, Miller said.

Steve Jones, a physical education teacher at the high school, said on Wednesday that students had to battle through the cold while doing activities in the auxiliary gym and mat room. They were not afraid to voice their complaints either.

“I don’t blame them half the time,” Jones said.