Although the next school year is months away, Carroll educators are making plans to buy and lease more portable classrooms and shift others to relieve crowding in the district's 30 schools.

Bids for the lease, relocation and purchase of new units will be made available this week, school officials said. The Board of Education is expected to award contracts at its March meeting.

On the district's priority list is the leasing of five quad units-- each the equivalent of four classrooms -- for placement at the Multi-Service Community Center in Westminster, where students from Sandymount Elementary will be housed during a reconstruction project at their school.

In addition, a quad will be relocated from Hampstead Elementary School to the Multi-Service Center, providing a total of 24 classrooms there.

Vernon F. Smith Jr., Carroll's director of school support services, said money has been allocated in the current fiscal budget for the purchase and leasing of new units and the relocation of others.

School officials, he said, prefer leasing some of the units because there already is a "healthy inventory" of portables in Carroll. The district owns 76 portables, which house about 10 percent of the student enrollment.

"Our goal this year was not to buy any new units," Smith said. "However, after all the juggling and movement is finished, it still looks like we will have to purchase one double unit for Northwest Middle School and one double for Mechanicsville Elementary."

He noted, though, that the purchase of a double unit -- two classrooms -- for Mechanicsville remained questionable. School officials are hopeful existing portables on the site will be ableto accommodate enrollment there.

School officials have budgeted $70,000 for the purchase of each double unit. That figure includes permits, water, sewer and electric hookup and any grading related to thesite work.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said school officials have decided to contract the grading and hookup for the portables this year, instead of having the system's maintenance staff do much ofthe work.

He said contracting the service would be more efficientand would free the maintenance staff for upkeep and other work at schools.

"It's perceivable that we could get good bids -- not only for the movement of the portables but also for the successful bidder to subcontract the hookups -- because of the sluggish economy," he said.

The opening of two new schools -- Piney Ridge in Eldersburg andSpring Garden Elementary in Hampstead -- will free up some portable classroom units for use elsewhere in the district.

Two double units will be transferred from Eldersburg Elementary to William Winchester. One double unit from Hampstead Elementary will be moved to Sykesville Middle School.

The district has received approval and money from the Maryland Interagency Committee on School Construction to relocate two state-owned units at Manchester Elementary to Winfield Elementary, where the portables are needed to house students during a planned renovation and addition project there.

In other moves, a doubleunit -- two classrooms -- will be transferred from Winfield Elementary to Mount Airy Elementary. One double unit also will be removed from Sandymount for use at Robert Moton Elementary.

The projects are expected to be completed by mid-June.

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