Portable classrooms possible in Parkview

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Sunday, March 11, 2012
— If an April 3 referendum fails and the Parkview School District adds portable classrooms, they won't be like the 44-year-old models the district has been using since 1974, officials said.

The two portables in use at Parkview Junior/Senior High are believed to have been built in 1968, Business Manager Pat Miller said. Parkview got them in 1974, and the portables have been moved around the district as needed, he said.

Construction of modular classrooms has improved greatly since then, he said.

"You can't drive by those and say, 'Oh, that's what a modular building looks like,'" he said.

The superintendent for the Brown Deer School District, which is using eight new modular classrooms like the ones Parkview is considering, said they are bright and cheerful but are smaller than traditional classrooms and have less storage.

The Parkview School Board considered adding modular classrooms at Orfordville Elementary School as a relatively inexpensive way to consolidate elementary students without a referendum.

But rather than tell parents, teachers and students they were destined for modular classrooms, the board decided to give the community an alternative through referendum.

If voters approve the $5 million referendum, a permanent addition would be built onto Orfordville Elementary, and Newark and Footville schools could close.

If the referendum fails, the board plans to move sixth graders to the junior high, close Footville and Newark elementaries and use the savings plus district reserves to add portable classrooms at Orfordville Elementary.

Board President Troy Knudson said the school board is focused on passing the referendum as a long-term solution, and no details have been decided on the use of modular classrooms.

What are they?

Modern building standards have improved the quality of portable classrooms, and air quality standards require sensors and ventilators, said Kevin Maiden, vice president of Innovative Modular Solutions. He's been in the industry since 1984, and his company specializes in modular classrooms.

Parkview administrators sought information from several companies, but Innovative Modular Solutions gave the most complete answers, Miller said. If the district moves ahead with modular classrooms, it would seek bids from several companies.

Maiden said modular classrooms are built as structurally independent cubes that are joined at the school site after a foundation is built and utilities are extended.

Parkview would need eight modular classrooms. They would be under one roof, not eight separate portables, and would be connected by a common hallway, Maiden said.

Modulars can include restrooms, if needed. It's up to a district to decide whether to connect the modular building to the school, Maiden said.

Modulars are heated and air conditioned and can connect to a school's computer networks and other technology. The wood, drywall and commercial vinyl used in modular construction can create an environment quieter than a conventional brick building, Maiden said.

Miller said Innovative quoted a cost of $763,000 for an eight-classroom modular building, including site work, delivery and set-up.

Modulars also can be leased, and Maiden said that's the best option for a school district planning to use them for only two or three years. At four to five years of use, districts are better off buying modulars. The company would buy back when a district is done with them, he said.

The downside, Maiden said, is aesthetics—if that's an issue. Low-budget options can look like a plain box, he said.

Brown Deer example

The Brown Deer School District north of Milwaukee has the same eight-classroom modular at its elementary school that Parkview is considering. Brown Deer has been using the modulars as a short-term solution since fall 2007 because it could not afford to build a new school to replace a school slated for demolition.

"I was very straight-forward from the beginning of the process—modular classrooms were a short-term solution," Superintendent Deb Kerr said. "They're an adequate solution for housing kids, but they are smaller than regular classrooms."

Brown Deer students will move out of the modulars in fall 2013, when renovated buildings are expected to be ready.

Like teaching spaces in brick-and-mortar buildings, modular classroom have carpeting, bulletin boards and white boards, she said.

"They're very cheerful and bright," she said. "Once the teachers put a lot of their resource materials up in the classroom, you would not even know you were in a modular classroom."

The Brown Deer modular classrooms connect to the school through a hallway.

Teachers have said the rooms are a little small, which causes more difficulty at the elementary level, where teachers have more materials, Kerr said.

Storage is limited.

Two of the Brown Deer modular classrooms are used by 4-year-old kindergarten, which has smaller class sizes. The rest house fourth graders, who officials decided are better able to handle the longer walk to the main school.

Kerr's advice to other districts: Make sure they have enough time. Brown Deer had a tight schedule to get the modulars installed, and received occupancy permits the day before school started.

"There's lots of logistics that have to happen," she said. "Make sure you have ample time."

Last updated: 7:58 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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