Portable classrooms inventoried new policy proposed; 6 criteria suggested for determining need


Stung by criticism that they had neither an accounting of their portable classrooms nor a policy for their use, and that at least one-third were not needed, county school officials have inventoried the portables and are proposing their first policy for where the classrooms will be placed.

The inventory shows that nearly all 129 portables are in full-time use, most of them as classrooms.

The proposed policy lists six criteria for determining whether a school is eligible for a portable classroom.

Among them are whether enrollment exceeds school capacity, whether all space in the building is being used, whether the room is needed for additional teachers assigned to the school and whether partitions can be used to divide existing classrooms into smaller spaces that would accommodate all students.

"We are going to have a much more objective standard," said Kenneth Lawson, associate director for instruction and student services.

In the past, principals made informal requests for portables and did not have to document why they needed them.

The list and the policy have been sent to school board members and will be discussed at Wednesday's board meeting.

They will be circulated among principals, teachers and others for comment before the board votes on them this year.

School officials hope to have the policy in effect in time for the flurry of requests for portables that comes every spring.

The list shows that the school system has nine more portable classrooms than county officials thought, but that 23 cannot be moved because they are attached to school buildings or could not withstand a move.

In the spring, county officials challenged whether 40 of 120 portables were needed and said that a comparison of school capacity and student population indicated that about half were not needed where they were.

Even if the number of students in a building indicates that some portables are not needed for classrooms, the structures often are used for other purposes, said Ronald Beckett, associate superintendent for business and other services.

They are used for music, for individual study, for in-school suspensions and for planning space for teachers who have no classrooms of their own.

County officials said they were pleased with the proposals.

"What it is doing is forcing them to take a good hard look at them and what is being utilized and how," said Robert J. Dvorak, the county's chief administrative officer.

A portable classroom costs up to $130,000, not including the cost of a foundation, utilities and furnishings, which can drive the price up to $180,000. Officials hope they can save money by moving the portables. Moving one costs about $35,000.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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