Ontario High School gains equipment to train youth and keep them in school

Students at Ontario High School hone their welding skills in the school’s workshop. T.J. Toomey is the welding instructor at Ontario High School and is also in charge of the school’s new manufacturing program. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)

ONTARIO – Ontario High School now owns state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to train students in practical skills for the work force. 

The equipment until recently was sitting in its original bubble wrap at Grant Union High School in John Day when Dirk DeBoer, a Nyssa area farmer and supporter of local education, and Ontario Mayor Riley Hill learned about it.  

The Ontario School District then made a deal to buy the equipment for $45,000 to bolster its new manufacturing program, according to Renae Corn, an Ontario school board member who described the arrangement at a recent board meeting.

At the meeting, DeBoer and Hill were honored for their investments in developing the vocational programs at Ontario. 

The high school obtained three machining lathes and two milling machines in the deal with the John Day district. 

T.J. Toomey, an advanced welding instructor at Ontario High, runs the school’s new manufacturing program.

DeBoer and Hill bought a fourth machining lathe at their own expense and donated it to the school, according to Toomey.

At the recent school board meeting, Hill lauded DeBoer for his work helping to develop the vocational programs at the high school. 

“You have no idea how many mothers have come up to me at different times and said, if it weren’t for the programs that you guys got going my kids would have quit school,” Hill said.  

After Hill spoke, DeBoer addressed the room. 

“Malheur County meant a lot to me when I came here. I was welcomed, so this is payback time,” DeBoer said.  

DeBoer said that the best way to make sure that Malheur County is not the lowest “on the totem poll” for quality of life, a better vocational education is needed to prepare students for the work force. 


“That’s what this is all about,” DeBoer said. 

“We need to go to the industry and the work place and the question will be, what can we teach our students so you can hire them? And if you do that, Malheur County will be way up on top in the standard of living,” DeBoer added. 

He said there are quite a few students enrolled in the manufacturing program, which began with the school year.  

New manufacturing equipment awaits eager hands. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)

Toomey said students in the program will take a drafting class and then move into 3D printing and laser cutting. 

Training with the new machinery will be the last sequence of the training. 

Toomey, who has lived in the area for about 35 years, has worked as a welding instructor at Treasure Valley Community College.

Toomey said that there are more employers who need people proficient with the AutoCAD Fusion 360 program, a design and manufacturing software used in the field. 

Achieving proficiency with the program, specifically the computer-aided manufacturing, is part of the program at Ontario High School. 

The course topics for the manufacturing program are in sequences, Toomey said. And the program is offered to freshman through seniors. 

“There’s going to be a lot of safety protocol that has to be enforced before we can even think about turning the kids loose on any of those machines,” Toomey added.

Have a news tip? Reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377. 

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