Portables to be replaced by permanent classrooms

FRESNO, Calif. That accounts for one third of all classrooms and 50 percent of all elementary students are in portables.

Fresno Unified wants to replace portable classrooms by building permanent classrooms. Teachers in those portables say the aging buildings have sinking foundations, and leaky roofs.

Kathie Mollica says she's been teaching in a portable classroom for 16 years and believes mold and old carpeting in portable units make it difficult for some students to breath.

'This room we used to call the sick room because every teacher and child in this room would end up sick," Mollica said.

Before the carpeting was changed she says many who spent time in this room would develop sinus and respiratory infections as well as asthma complications. Mollica says some problems also come from beneath the buildings.

"Several of the rooms have cats you can walk in several times of the year it smells like cat urine," Mollica said.

The board of education is considering placing a bond measure on the November ballot which includes more than $60 million to replace 80 percent of the district's temporary classrooms.

"We're looking at campuses with portables with 16 or 18 portables, we would really focus on," Karin Temple said.

Some campuses actually have more portables than permanent classes.

For example Del Mar has 21 portables, with 16 permanent classrooms, Ericson has 28 portables, (15 permanent classrooms) and Rowell Elementary with 22 portables (21 permanent classrooms) has some of the oldest temporary classrooms dating back to the 1950's and 60's.

"They were never intended to be permanent a lot were installed in the 80's when we were growing at such a fast rate," Temple said.

Mollica says with permanent rooms parents may be relieved to know more students will have access to plumbing and water fountains.

A change she says is better for instruction time and student health. The total cost to replace portables is nearly $750 million over the next 15 years.

In May, the school board will discuss whether they will move forward with a school bond with replacing portables as one of the top priorities.

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