PLANNING FOR SCHOOL GROWTH
With the 2,685 new single family homes permitted to build within our district, it’s only going to increase the number of students exposed to a portable classroom...unless we we get more proactive and creative in how we plan for future school capacity and fund those needs.
30% to 50% of the student body of elementary schools like Canyon Creek, Crystal Springs, Fernwood, Frank Love, Kokanee, Maywood Hills, and Moorlands face this reality when they enter into a portable classroom.
Portables do have their role in times of rapid growth where we can't react quick enough, and are meant to be temporary.
However, the over-reliance on portables is the result inadequate long-range planning, preparation, and funding. We are now faced with continued population growth and playing catch-up with providing capital resources that we need to build real classrooms.
The Inadvertent Cost of
Our Region’s Population Growth
We are currently exceeding our student capacity ability. If we’re not paying attention, we will fall behind at current funding levels.
According to the district’s capital funding plan, our district has grown 10% in the last 5 years - or by nearly 2,000 students. In other words, enough to outfit another 4A high school.
By 2022, there will likely be an addition of another 3,000 to 4,000 students. This growth will inflate classroom sizes, outgrow current school infrastructure, and create unnecessary distractions for a student’s learning environment.
What Happens When
You Run Out of Classroom
However, this can only do so much to deal with the fact that there is simply not enough space to accommodate our unexpected enrollment growth.
So schools usually resort to utilizing the space they have and adding portable classrooms.
Portables are a reasonable stopgap for schools that have new construction in progress to accommodate an increased student population. But there are cases like Billie Lane’s. Based in the Puyallup School District, Lane has taught students in a portable classroom for 16+ years.
These portables are typically made of inexpensive building materials like particleboard, glue, and cheap carpet. They are meant to be a temporary solution. However, there are no limits on how long a portable can be in use.
Extended stays in a portable can create ventilation issues that expose teachers and students to mold, formaldehyde, and other chemicals; as well as increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air.
In a report done by Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2012, researchers found that excess carbon dioxide in schools or other spaces with high occupancy may severely impact decision-making levels. Portables also are subject to increased levels of carbon dioxide.
If the science isn’t enough to alarm you, hear this testimonial from a 14-year old student who's spent most of her schooling in a portable classroom:
“Bring water. Bring a jacket. Be prepared for loud noises. Basically, be prepared to be distracted a lot.
How to Accommodate Growth
(And Phase Out Portables)
We send children to school to learn skills that help them succeed in the workplace and life. Their quality of education should not be burdened by substandard learning environments.
To plan for our increased growth - and phase out our portable usage, I would:
Use my commercial real estate experience to push the District to optimize facility management efficiencies to save money that can then be applied to increase our capital budget, and to look at better real estate planning investment in order to expand existing schools and to ensure we have land for new schools.
Work with districts statewide to regularly push the Legislature and the Governor to pass larger Capital Budgets for school construction.
Support larger Capital Projects Bonds.
Consider the use of higher quality portables like the one used at The Perkins School in Seattle.
If you believe that children should have an equal right to an education without having to worry about the air they breathe in the classroom, let’s work together and build school environments that our children and teachers deserve.