School Districts: Portables part of their reality

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- With the first day of school right around the corner, our districts are prepping for record numbers of students.

More than 30 portable classrooms are being installed before school resumes and at more than $100 thousand dollars a pop, it's costing a pretty penny to keep up with the growth.

Pasco school district employees tour the brand new four classroom modular building at Robinson Elementary. The "super portable," if you will, could be the future of movable classrooms in an area where population growth is the biggest hurdle.

"We actually maximize space efficiency, because we have four classrooms all in once space, we're heating one space. This portable also has hallway space and rest rooms in it," says Pasco School District's Public Affairs Specialist Leslee Caul.

Pasco has more than doubled its student population over the last 12 years. The district adds the equivalent of an entire elementary school with new enrollments every year. The bond approved by voters is allowing Pasco to build three new elementary schools by next year.

But to meet the actual demand, Pasco would need seven new schools in the same time period. Meaning portables are here to stay.

"We would not be able to build the numbers of schools this community would need to eliminate portables, so portables are part of our reality," Caul says.

Teachers aren't dismayed by a classroom in a portable.

"Curriculum is the same, the teaching pace and planning is the same. It just basically a classroom that isn't inside the school building," says Robinson Elementary Principle Wendi Manthei

School districts also take security precautions for portables.

Reporter: "Is there any safety concern with going to lunch or back and forth for recess or anything like that?"
"Nope. During the day, the outside doors are locked and the bells and security and everything is tied to the building, so it's pretty much the same," Manthei says.

Rapid population growth seems to be the only issue that can't be picked up and moved.

Pasco is adding 14 portables for this upcoming school year. Kennewick will add 27, and Richland isn't adding any.

Richland is set to open three new schools in the next few years. Reps say they hope to start actually getting rid of portables as the new buildings are introduced