Crowded schools deal with portables Westminster pupils see some advantages to temporary rooms

September 03, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

When it comes to schools, portable classrooms generally aren't viewed as desirable features.

At Westminster West Middle School, however, some sixth-graders who have most of their classes in portables see things differently.

"When you're in the portable, you don't have to hear all the lockers slamming," said Jeff Walters.

Jessica Dlugolecki said she's never gotten lost in a portable classroom.

But pupils agreed that the best thing about portables is that they're air-conditioned, and the classrooms in the Westminster West building aren't. The warm temperatures have made portables the place to be.

"I think I work better when I'm in just the right temperature," said Katie Kirkpatrick. "Otherwise I get headaches when I get too hot."

With portables in place at 22 of the county's 36 schools, many teachers and pupils see the temporary classrooms as an extension of the total school facility.

"They've become a part of the culture," said Michael Bell, principal of Westminster West Middle School, which has 12 portables, mainly used to house a sixth-grade team of about five classes and five teachers. The school, which has a capacity of 900, has 1,166 pupils.

"If I had my druthers, I'd rather have them in the building," Bell said. "But having the portables has allowed us to run the show the way we want to run it."

Carroll schools are using 117 portable classrooms this year -- 113 to handle crowding and four to accommodate a construction project at Francis Scott Key High School.

Each spring, school officials use projected enrollment to assign portable classrooms for the next academic year, said Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services.

This year, the opening of Linton Springs Elementary School in Eldersburg meant that 10 portables from elementary schools in South Carroll could be moved to other crowded schools.

"The portables from elementary schools all went to secondary schools. That's where the bubble is," said Sanner, referring to the largest concentration among the county's 26,618 pupils.

With 16 temporary classrooms, Liberty High School has the most portables this year. Westminster West and North Carroll Middle schools are tied for second, with 12 portables each.

Teachers and pupils at the schools with the most portables said the only drawbacks are the smaller size and moving from the portable to the main school building in bad weather.

"You don't realize when you're teaching that you're in a portable," said Kathy Stahl, a sixth-grade math teacher at Westminster West. "It's just a classroom."

Brad Hebble, a sixth-grade team leader at Westminster West, said portables create a more close-knit group of pupils.

"It's almost like our own little school out here," Hebble said.

In contrast to Westminster West, at North Carroll Middle, mainly seventh- and eighth-grade pupils take classes in portables.

"We do not like sixth-graders going out into the portables," said North Carroll Middle Principal Richard DeLong. "We prefer they become acclimated with the building."

Liberty High School Principal Randy Clark said portables are an easy way to deal with crowding. He said the real problem at his school is finding more space in the main building.

"As an instructional space, the portables are quite effective," Clark said. "Our main focus has been to make changes in the core facility to meet the demands."

Liberty is the county's most crowded school. Built for 1,170 pupils, the school has an enrollment of 1,546.

This summer the school completed a number of projects to make life more comfortable for pupils.

An old wood shop was converted into a "satellite dining area" that seats 140. The space has been designated as a freshman dining hall. Part of the media center was converted into a larger health suite. A classroom adjacent to the media center was redesigned to serve as a research computer lab.

Liberty has continued its one-way hallways policy to help move pupils more quickly through crowded halls.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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