HVAC team lead keeps students, staff comfortable and safe

When it comes to temperature levels, HVAC team lead Jonathan Harper is an expert in keeping things ‘just right.’

‘Just right’ can depend on the season with sweltering Texas heat and mild winters. But his goal is always the same — keep students and staff comfortable.

“If I get a call saying a building is too hot, my first response is to check the chillers on the roof,” Harper said.

Harper oversees HISD’s northeast campuses and facilities with the help of his 15-member team. Together, they install, repair, and maintain the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems in nearly 80 district buildings.

It can be a demanding job, often requiring Harper and team members to jump from rooftop to rooftop, respond to emergency weekend calls, and troubleshoot in buildings that are typically decades old.

But the self-described problem solver said he enjoys the challenges. As flu season approaches amid an ongoing pandemic, Harper has narrowed in on maintaining units that promote clean, breathable air through ventilation and filtration.

“We’re doing our part to make sure filters are changed regularly, areas are properly ventilated, and units are operational,” said Harper, who joined HISD seven years ago.

HVAC units bring fresh, outdoor air into buildings while sending equal amounts of stale, indoor air outside. This helps remove indoor pollutants and pathogens that can cause odor and sickness, Harper said.

While units do the mechanical heavy lifting, part of Harper’s job is to make sure the correct amount of air is brought in and out of buildings and is temperature controlled.

“If it’s the middle of the summer you don’t want to bring in 100 percent Houston air because, at that point, you have no air conditioning,” Harper said with a laugh.

Harper said he has learned many lessons during his time in the field, but there is one he said he holds dearest.

“In order to have any success as a team leader, you need support from management, as well as a dedicated team day in and day out,” he said. “Thankfully, not even a pandemic has stopped that.”