Squeezed For Space, Schools Turn To Portable Classrooms

County Plansto Buy 10 More This Year

August 25, 1991|By SOURCE: Harford County Board of Education Carol Bowers | SOURCE: Harford County Board of Education Carol Bowers,Staff writer

On the Top 10 list of the most crowded public schools in the county this fall, William Paca-Old Post Road and Prospect Mill elementaries will hold the No. 1 and No. 2 slots.

Those two schools will open the school year Sept. 3 with more portable classrooms than any of the other 44 public schools.

William Paca-Old Post Road, which will have 10 relocatable classrooms, is expected to have 1,497 students enrolled -- 297 above capacity.

Six of the portable classrooms needed at William Paca-Old PostRoad are already in place because they were used last year. Four more will be installed within the next two weeks.

The story at Prospect Mill, near Churchville, is similar; enrollment is expected to reach 1,045 this year -- about 445 students over capacity. To accommodatethe flood of students, the number of relocatable classrooms at the school will increase to seven this fall, up from four last year.

The county Board of Education is also buying 10 more relocatable classrooms to add to its inventory, raising the number of portable classrooms at county public schools to 44. More county students than ever will be using portables during the coming year.

At a special Board ofEducation meeting Monday, the seven-member school board approved a five-year lease-purchase plan for the 10 new relocatable classrooms. Under a lease-purchase arrangement, lease payments count toward the purchase price. Eventually, the board will own the relocatables.

In June, the County Council approved the lease-purchase arrangement and agreed to allow the school board to spend up to $1 million to buy, equip, furnish and install 10 new relocatable classrooms. The council also approved paying to move seven portable classrooms the county owns. The classrooms are shifted between schools depending on need; none have been retired from duty.

James M. Jewell, the county treasurer, said each portable classroom costs between $60,000 and $70,000. In the past, the county has paid for some relocatable classrooms, while the Board of Education has paid for others, Jewell said. Who pays depends upon which government body can obtain the lowest price, he said.

Albert Seymour, a spokesman for the Board of Education, said it has not been determined how many current teachers or new hires would be assigned to portable classrooms. About 200 new teachers will be hired for this school year.

Meanwhile, even with the additional portable classrooms at Prospect Mill, the school's gymnasium will be divided in half with each side filled all day with students participating in physical education, said Daniel E. Harner, Prospect Mill's principal.

"With one building, with one gym and one cafeteria, you can't handle that many children," he said. "As it is I have booked two classes with two teachers all day in the gym. If we get any more studentswe won't be able to feed them or give them gym class and other services."

Harner said school administrators faced the possibility of having 14 relocatable classrooms at the school next year but avoided that by developing a plan to house the school's fifth grade at Southampton Middle School.

Prospect Mill fifth-graders would still be considered part of their elementary school and would be taught by elementary school teachers. But classes would be conducted at the middle school, he said.

Harner said parents haven't objected to the portables but have opposed the plan to relocate the fifth grade.

"They'renot upset about portables. They're upset about moving," said Harner."But there's just no way we can handle that many students in a building built for 600 or 700 students. Both schools will be full. There are enough students to go around."

Total 1990-1991 enrollment for county public schools is expected to be 31,500. By 1995-1996 enrollment is projected to be 39,413.

In anticipation for the growth, school board members Monday also approved designs for a new elementary school in Belcamp, slated for opening in September 1994.

Preliminary plans for the school, to be located along Riverside Parkway and Church Creek Road in the Riverside development, leave room for two additions if it becomes overcrowded.

HARFORD COUNTY SCHOOLS WITH RELOCATABLECLASSROOMS

School.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. No. of relocatables

Bel Air Elementary. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 3

Bel Air Middle School. .. .. .. .. .. .. 3

Churchville Elementary .. .. .. .. .. .. 1

C. Milton Wright High. .. .. .. .. .. .. 2

Edgewood Elementary .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1

Hickory Elementary. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1

Homestead Wakefield .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 4

Prospect Mill Elementary. .. .. .. .. .. 7

Ring Factory Elementary.. .. .. .. .. .. 2

Riverside Elementary.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 3

William Paca-Old Post Road Elementary . 10

William S. James Elementary. .. .. .. .. 2

Youth's Benefit Elementary.. .. .. .. .. 5

*Each relocatable holds 25-35 students

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