Community says goodbye to portable classrooms


Gracie Rose

This portable classroom used at Huntertown Elementary will be going away when the new elementary school, Aspen Meadows, is completed in 2020.

Since 2016, NACS has been using portable classrooms as a way to accommodate for the growing population size of the school district.

This year, two elementary schools, Perry Hill and Huntertown, are using the portable units for 5th grade classes, having four classrooms each.

But as with any change, there have been some concerns from the community.

Parent Erica Andrews is concerned about her student being in a building that cannot withstand severe weather and not having access to the bathroom or the office.

“They also switch classes, forcing them to go outside in the rain, snow, and cold. I don’t think those concerns will change,” she said.

Mrs. Andrews’ fifth-grade son was also disappointed by his placement in the mobile classroom.

“He feels like the space is too small for them as fifth graders,” said Mrs. Andrews.

Despite the minor inconveniences of the smaller space and the gap between the portables and the main building, there are not very many differences between the portables and other classrooms.

“There isn’t a noticeable difference,” says Huntertown principal Casey Stansifer, describing the differences between the portable classrooms and the main building, “They have typical school desks, a projector and white board, coat hooks, etc.”

In functionality, the portable classrooms are not much different than the rest of the school, despite the need to go outside in order to get into the main building.

Safety doesn’t seem to be a main concern, but with more than 400 school shootings occurring in the country since 2010, it is an important factor to consider.

“The area is fenced off from the public entering and considering that we are in a low crime area, I’m not overly concerned,” Mrs. Andrews said.

Huntertown Elementary is also fortunate to be located safely next door to the Huntertown Fire Station.

“If we ever need anything, whether in the portable classrooms or in other classrooms in the building, the fire department is close and always ready to help with anything we might need,” Mr. Stansifer said.

In addition to this, the classrooms are also kept locked at all times and fences are used to surround the portable units as an extra safety measure.

Mr. Stansifer is confident the kids in the portables are safe, despite not being in the main building.

Fifth-grade teacher Sarah Kohlhoff is making the best of her position in the portables and does not notice any difference inside the portable.

“I am not a fan of the cold. Having to go inside the building when it is cold or rainy isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t terrible,” says Ms. Kohlhoff. “When the weather is nice, it is a bonus to be able to step outside and enjoy the sunshine when we go to other classes.”

Ms. Kohlhoff also observes that although her students were hesitant in the beginning, the mobile classrooms have become a part of their daily routine to the point where it is no longer a strange feeling for them to be separated from the main building.

“Students don’t seem to mind being in a portable. I think at the beginning of the year there were some nerves about the unknown,” said Ms. Kohlhoff. “As we practiced our daily routine, the newness of being in a portable wore off.”

Plans are still not set on which teachers and kids will be moving to the new elementary, Aspen Meadow, when it opens next year.

“Aspen Meadow will pull families from the current Huntertown attendance area, so our student population level will go down to a level that the building can handle,” says Mr. Stansifer.

Where exactly those boundary lines will be drawn is still unknown.

Teachers do not know who will be moving because those decisions have not yet been made. They cannot just move the teachers using the portables to the new elementary because the portables are only used by the fifth grade teachers.

Four of the fifth grade classes at both Huntertown and Perry Hill are using the portables, so if all of those teachers were transferred to the new elementary, Aspen Meadow would have eight fifth grade teachers.

“As a result, teachers from multiple elementary buildings will be moved around to accommodate the new students at Aspen Meadow,” said Mr. Stansifer.

Ms. Kohlhoff doesn’t know whether she will move schools or not, but she is open to the idea.

“There are a lot of decisions to be made, so for me personally, I am going with the flow while those plans are made.”

Parents and students are also looking forward to seeing the new building and who will be transferred to it.

“A new school is always going to be more appealing than being placed in a mobile classroom that is physically disconnected from the school building,” says Andrews.

Although a new school is a large investment, the community could tell that it was needed and that it was worth the money.

“Knowing that our district’s population is continuing to grow, and the standards that I feel our district has set for itself, the need for a new school is apparent,” said Mrs. Andrews. “Mobile classrooms should be used as a short-term solution, and not a long term one.”