Portable classrooms provide temporary relief to overcrowding


File photo: Public school portable with accessible wheelchair ramp.

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Posted June 10, 2022 | By Caroline Brauchler
caroline@ocalagazette.com

The front-running solution to alleviate the strain of growth on Marion County Public Schools is the addition of portable classrooms. For some schools this serves as a temporary Band-Aid, and for the rest—it’s not even an option. 

After the Marion County School Board and district staff discussed both short-term and long-term solutions to help ease the strain, an inventory was conducted to determine which schools in the county had the capacity to increase in size by adding portables, according to the presentation given at the most recent MCSB administrative work session. 

There are eight schools that have the capability to add portables if the necessary steps are taken, said Public Relations Director Kevin Christian on behalf of Barbara Dobbins, the executive director of operations and emergency management.

Sunrise Elementary can add two, College Park and Saddlewood Elementary can each add four, Marion Oaks Elementary and West Port High can each add six, Hammett Bowen Elementary and Liberty Middle can each add eight, and Horizon Academy can add 12. 

“We do have some funding in place to help relocate portable classrooms as needed. The average cost of doing so is $15,000 per portable,” Christian said. “If a portable was set up somewhere, that’s what it would cost us to unhook that portable from utilities, to move it to another campus and to hook it back up. We use that as an average figure.”

But the task of relocating the portables is just the start—each portable will need electricity, water, sewer, air conditioning and other utilities, and whether a school already has those capabilities or needs to add them Continued from page A1

could either decrease or increase the price range in question, Christian said. 

While the addition of portables will slightly ease the strain of capacity on these schools, many other overcrowded schools in the district cannot utilize portables as a solution for a variety of different reasons. 

“If a school campus does not have the physical space for it, that could limit it. If it is not capable of handling the electrical load, that would prevent a portable from being delivered there,” Christian said. “It could be a matter of water and utility as well, because we have some schools that are on well water.”

While portables are the most inexpensive and timely solutions available, they are still not a permanent fix to Marion County Public Schools’ overcrowding issue. 

“You can only use portables for a certain number of years,” Christian said. “After a certain number of years, a portable classroom by state statute can no longer be used—so they do have a lifespan.”

Many of the schools that cannot receive portable classrooms need more concrete long-term planning solutions, according to School Board Vice-Chair Allison Campbell. 

“Schools like Eighth Street, Osceola and any other school in the district that is experiencing overcrowding would not even have land mass capability to accept portables,” Campbell said. 

Campbell said that the board is investigating long-term solutions to combat and plan for future population growth and will start by attempting to come to an interlocal agreement so that the governing bodies of Marion County might come together for a plan of action. 

“Definitely portables would be a short-term fix for this school year, but it needs to continue to be a conversation that we have,” Campbell said. “This is just the beginning.”