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Temporary Classrooms Are Bad For the Environment, and Worse For Kids

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the false-economy dept.

Education 187

tcd004 (134130) writes "You've always suspected those trailer-type portable classrooms are no good, right? It turns out you're right. Analysis of prefabricated classrooms in Washington shows the structures often don't allow for proper ventilation, leading to terrible air quality for kids. Students in temporary classrooms have higher rates of absenteeism than those in standard classrooms. And the energy-inefficient structures often become permanent, sucking on school energy bills for decades, and requiring more upkeep than permanent classrooms. What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms."

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Fr0thy ps0t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107701)

From my trailer.

Whats teh difference (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107707)

You're already putting your kid in a public school. What's the point of worrying about the air quality when you're letting their brains fucking ROT. They'll be trained to be nice obedient little consumers, working their corporate jobs, believing whatever the TV says.

Re:Whats teh difference (1, Flamebait)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47107865)

I know that I have chosen to throw $25k down the toilet each year in the hopes that my kids will someday become a Slashdot troll.

Flawed? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107723)

> What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms.

No. What's needed are more permanent classrooms.

Re:Flawed? (2)

Agares (1890982) | about 7 months ago | (#47107797)

I was thinking the same thing. Also the problems we have with our education system is the reason why my future kids (got one on the way) will be either home schooled or sent to a very good private school.

Re:Flawed? (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#47107805)

You'd almost think the humans who came up with the idea of "buildings", durable structures intended to last for a significant period of time while sheltering their occupants from the elements, were on to something.

Re:Flawed? (0)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#47108691)

Yeah, but then you would have to pay for them, and residents get resentful at the idea of schools having nice things. How can they afford the latest gadgets and vacations if schools are teaching children with their money?

Re:Flawed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47109015)

Or they get resentful of wasted money. 300k for a school principle? But NOPE no money for new buildings. Growing up I remember getting "extra credit" if my parents would sign off on a bond for a brand new shiny high school. It passed, then no high school was built. They took the money, took vacations, bought every employee, including part time janitors, new laptops cuz "Technology is KEY!". There were plenty of "investigations" ie, payoffs to public officials, and they all concluded that while the bond was supposed to be for the building of a high school, "happiness" of the district employees was an acceptable alternative.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47109191)

We used to say "apples for the students means powerbooks for the teachers"

I'm that old.

Re:Flawed? (4, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47107889)

Yes, but if land is at a premium, then sometimes you need to relocate while the new structure is built. My district is replacing every single school in the system one at a time, and so they need to use trailers for the students who are currently having their school rebuilt. No one thinks this is ideal, but no one has suggested a better idea, either.

Re:Flawed? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 7 months ago | (#47108043)

I bet the old ones aren't even that old. And these stupid things cost many 10s of millions.

They should design them modular so that additions can be built when needed.

Re:Flawed? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47108231)

I've personally never attended a school that did not have additions, but I recognize the possibility that someone could be so stupid as to design one without making expansion possible.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108529)

I've personally never attended a school that did not have additions, but I recognize the possibility that someone could be so stupid as to design one without making expansion possible.

Yep, by the second year my high school had been open they were already adding trailers to one of the parking lots. The building was simply undersized to begin with.

Re:Flawed? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47108623)

Well, again, every school I've been in had additions. It's fine to get the initial size wrong - forecasts can be difficult. It's quite another thing to design a school that can't be expanded.

Re:Flawed? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#47109059)

I've personally never attended a school that did not have additions, but I recognize the possibility that someone could be so stupid as to design one without making expansion possible.

Well, it's possible that the building was meant to have additions. But the additions consumed all the space that was available for it and the school still needs to expand. Except now it has to expand on parts that were never designed to have additions - e.g., the outdoor field gets encroached on, the playground area, etc.

Usually the additions get build and planning on where the next addition goes takes place. This often means the playground will have to be moved elsewhere, or other amenities shifted. Then you end up with stuff like the available open area gets shrunk and other things and before you know it, you really are out of space.

Sometimes the student population shift can be impressive - a school housing 1000 students with plans for expansion for another 400 students can see its population reach 2000 by the time the addition is completed, just by the way families migrate, immigration, etc. Or in the sanest case, open at 1400 students and be at capacity on completion rather than expecting it to fill up over the next 5 years or something.

And never mind trying to get approval to double the size of the school in the first place - going from 1000 students (at capacity) to 1400 isn't as big a stretch as trying to say that in a couple of years the student population would double.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47109221)

*Woosh

Modular building = another name for portable building.

Re:Flawed? (2)

cdrudge (68377) | about 7 months ago | (#47108337)

I bet the old ones aren't even that old.

You'd probably bet wrong in a many of cases.

My local school district is the largest in Indiana and hasn't built a new school since 1976. There's 62 buildings owned by the district, with 51 of them being schools and the average age is 54 years old. Almost all of the buildings were built during rapid population growth to educate the baby boomer generation. In the 60+ years since then the population has continued to grow but physical classroom sizes have remained the same. You can't easily make each classroom larger.

More kids, new technology, heating/cooling demands increased, funds dwindling while other expenses rising have led to many schools to become inadequate. Environmental conditions when they were built were also different with less understanding (or maybe just less caring) of proper air ventilation and air quality, building material, etc make older schools pale in comparison to a modern building. And if eventually a school does get a major remodeling or expansion, due to the time that many were built there are huge expenses due to asbestos and other hazardous building materials requiring proper remediation.

With older building it's sometimes (often?) easier, cheaper in the long run to build and operate, and better to raze what you have and rebuild from scratch for significant expansion or remodeling then try to fix a building past it's normal usable lifetime.

Re:Flawed? (1)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 7 months ago | (#47109013)

One solution would be time separation. Some overcrowded NYC high schools would have an AM / PM shift. Another novel idea would be 4 day school weeks, accomplished either via longer days or a longer school year. One group M-TH, a second W-SAT, and an unlucky third shift (M,TU,F,SAT). In this manner, you have 2/3 the students and teachers in the school at any given moment. Only a handful of schools need to do it in order to reduce the pressure on the entire system, and I'd imagine with the draw of 3 days off a week there'd be no shortage of both student and staff applicants for those schools (thus no one would be forced into it).

Re:Flawed? (3, Funny)

PongStroid (178315) | about 7 months ago | (#47108995)

Define old. At my son's school, across the street from our house we had a classroom in a portable. And not just *any* portable: Built in 1941 for the army, and installed at the school in 1943 to temporarily help with overcrowding in the regular classrooms. Our neighbor, who is 95, lived here when it was installed and her kids (who are now great grandparents!) attended class in it. My son, now 13, also enjoyed this classroom. This "temporary" portable, literally spitting distance from the Hayward fault, wasn't even anchored to the ground - elevated by four feet of stacked blocks of wood . Even crazier... the thing was riddled with asbestos tiles, and had a mold problem. The portable went away last year - 70 years after it was installed. I'd like to think that the paperwork I submitted to the city and state to have the portable declared a historical landmark worthy of preservation had something to do with it.

Re:Flawed? (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#47107941)

> What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms.

No. What's needed are more permanent classrooms.

What's needed is better planning to begin with. By the time the "analysis" is done for schools, and road for that matter a ridiculous amount of time will have passed. Then to get approval it has to go through years of bureaucracy. So you end up with a study that projected the next 20 years. But by the time all of the federal, state and local governments get done it goes to the bidding stage By the time the actual building is finished it's already 10 to 15 years past the original analysis. And usually the people in the planning stage took the most optimistic numbers. So you end up with a school that is just about right by the time it is ready. Then it's overcrowded in 1-2 years, with another 20+ year of usability expected.

Re:Flawed? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108277)

This sounds like someone who has no idea how things are done.

I've participated in my local school district's planning process. They hire a demographer to project growth patterns and plan accordingly. They're currently planning to put a bond proposal on the November ballot that, if passed, would have kids in newly built schools in 3 years, which is about as fast as they can be designed and built. The demographer projects growth as far out as possible, but you know what? It's not an exact science. There are x number of undeveloped lots in the school district. (This is the primary driver of student growth.) When will they be built on? No one knows. Will they be single family houses or apartment complexes? No one knows. I have no idea how it could be remotely possible to predict student growth more than 3-4 years out.

Then, there's the question of the voters. When the district decides it needs new buildings, it has to go to the voters to get permission to borrow money to build new buildings. If the voters don't pass a bond election, the district has to do things like rent portable buildings.

"Years of bureaucracy" and "study that projected the next 20 years" is not at all the reality in my experience. (Which is admittedly small.)

The federal and state governments, to the best of my knowledge, have zero input into local districts' growth plans.

Bidding that takes place 10 to 15 years past the original analysis? Geez, in what school district do you live? That's certainly not the case in my district in north Texas.

Using the most optimistic numbers? Again, not in my district. They use not only conservative numbers for growth, but for tax revenue projections as well. We project a 5% property valuation for year 1 after the bond is passed, a 3% increase in valuation for year 2, and 0% increase for years 3 and on.

So, I wonder, Grim Reefer: are you speaking from knowledge, or are you pulling "facts" out of your ass?

Re:Flawed? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#47108967)

I'm speaking from following these types of things for several decades in numerous states and localities. Some areas are better than others.

Where I live currently there is an elementary school that has been long over due to be renovated. When it rains they have to close sections of it off because it leaks so much. Part of the problem has to do with money. Not so much the lack of it, but who's going to benefit from it. The city counsel has decided that they want to tie it to building a new road into an entirely different area. The road will only benefit a small part of the city, but those that live there have influence with the city counsel. Even though they already have land they own that would be fine. Or to simply rebuild it in the same location. But instead new land is going to be purchased and eminent domain is going to be used to build the road. This has been in the discussion stage for several years now.

I've lived in other areas that literally had trailers being used as class rooms 3 years after the school was built.

I think Pennsylvania was one of the worst places I've lived in regards to this type of thing. Particularly in regards to roads. There was an intersection that was a 2-way stop dozens of people were killed there each year. So they did a study to determine if it warranted a traffic light. Obviously it did. So they commissioned another study rather than put a light up. And then another. I followed it after I left the area as I struck me as such an insane thing to keep postponing. After 19 years and 5 studies they finally put up a traffic light. Of course people kept getting killed, year after year, at that intersection.

Then, there's the question of the voters. When the district decides it needs new buildings, it has to go to the voters to get permission to borrow money to build new buildings. If the voters don't pass a bond election, the district has to do things like rent portable buildings.

The voters don't really have the ability to vote on these types of things. City counsel decides. They do hold hearings to listen to what he voters think. But, there is no real recourse if they go against the voters. To make matter worse, the pay for being on the city counsel is very low and those that are on it run unopposed every election.

The federal and state governments, to the best of my knowledge, have zero input into local districts' growth plans.

They provide some percentage of the educational funding. There's been a lot of debate regarding the value of taking federal funding as it only accounts for 5% of our total district budget. By accepting that money they are required to administer the SOL tests. This has made a real mess out of several states school systems.

Bidding that takes place 10 to 15 years past the original analysis? Geez, in what school district do you live? That's certainly not the case in my district in north Texas.

I never said that. I said that from the time of the first analysis. I should have said from the first discussions begin. So from then until the first student sits at a desk in that school takes that long. The studies, planning, bidding, and building are all included in that time-frame.

Using the most optimistic numbers? Again, not in my district. They use not only conservative numbers for growth, but for tax revenue projections as well. We project a 5% property valuation for year 1 after the bond is passed, a 3% increase in valuation for year 2, and 0% increase for years 3 and on.

Lucky you.

Re:Flawed? (1)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | about 7 months ago | (#47108507)

Lack of planning is the problem. On a cost per square foot basis, temporary classrooms are very close to the same as new construction. The primary difference is lead time. A new construction project can take a couple of years, just for the construction, disregarding whatever political process leads up to the school board deciding to pull the trigger. On the other hand, temporary classrooms can be set up in a few weeks. My school district has done plenty of both over the last several years, including both new schools at new sites and expansions to existing schools. New construction has decreased the need for trailer parks at schools, but not eliminated it.

Re:Flawed? (1, Flamebait)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47107985)

No. What's needed are more permanent classrooms.

Yeah, but then the hippies who sponsored this "news report" won't get $200,000 a pop for their "sustainable" portable classroom.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108015)

It's almost like one of the primary uses of temporary classrooms is probably during a rebuilding of an existing school (including expansion).

At least that the time I've seen them used around me.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108463)

I have seen them become semi perm. For example the county next to me spend 15 years just trying to decide to build a second high school. During that time? Porta-schools everywhere.

Building a school is also a political thing in many areas. For example the county I was talking about the upper half was 'rich folk' and the lower half was 'the real folk'. But it was more about making sure 'rich folk' have the same shitty conditions as the 'poor folk'. The original plan was to build 2 identical schools with easier access for everyone and removing 2k+ cars going thru the middle of a town twice a day meant for 100 cars a day. Instead nothing was built and portalschools ruled.

They finally are going to build a new one, tear down the old one. Yet in the 5-10 years that will take more porta schools. In the end they will end up with a new school that is too small. And a decrepit building continuing to be a school (when they realize they have to keep it open). With even more porta schools.

Re:Flawed? (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#47108077)

The problem that a lot of schools have is the population per area changes over time.

For example.
1960's City has a lot of kids. They go to school graduate then move out of City A because their parents who lived there made the City too expensive to grow up in.
1980's Suburb has a lot of kids, They go to school and graduate then move out of the Suburb because their parents have made the suburb too expensive to grow up in.
2000's SubRural "more remote suburbs" schools are finding they are getting an influx of students from the parents people who have moved out of the expensive suburbs. The City prices have gone down... However the quality of life sucks there so the big schools of the 1960's are getting more vacent and run down. And the 1980 suburb schools are showing a decline as well.

So we are having schools that needs a lot of money to maintain that are getting more empty. Temporary classrooms are the key to meet education demand having without a multi-million dollar attachment that will be obsolete in a few years.

Now if you want permanent classrooms, we need to work on a way where property prices just don't go up, for the communities, as people who get older acquire more wealth thus make an ageing community that is too expensive for the younger generation who is starting out.

Re:Flawed? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 7 months ago | (#47109345)

Now if you want permanent classrooms, we need to work on a way where property prices just don't go up, for the communities, as people who get older acquire more wealth thus make an ageing community that is too expensive for the younger generation who is starting out.

Or else get the younger generation accustomed to the idea that they're going to have to start small and gradually build up. That's the traditional pattern, but high mobility and greater wealth has convinced us that everyone should be able to buy a nice home in their 20s or 30s. The traditional pattern also led to much smaller homes, because people generally became able to trade up about the time their kids were leaving and they no longer needed the space.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108419)

Ah, but therein lies the rub. School districts can't justify the cost of capital improvements to parents. They want to see per-pupil spending spent on their kids, not the teachers that teach them, the schools that house them, or the equipment to run those schools.

Re:Flawed? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 7 months ago | (#47108723)

We have more than enough class rooms they are just in the wrong places.
The actual number of young people has been decreasing since the end of the baby boom.
I do agree that more classrooms is better but I really want them to take a pyramid approach to schools.
Lots of small elementary schools with no busing. You go to school near where you live.
Middle schools are fewer and much larger so you meet more people and have an opportunity to take more diverse classes.
High schools are massive and very few with as diversity in classes and students.

Re:Flawed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108749)

No. What's needed is a different approach to schools and teaching in general.

Re:Flawed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108849)

> What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms.

No. What's needed are more permanent classrooms.

No. What's needed is to break up the govt school monopoly so that schools, both private and govt run, become accountable. Barring a breakup of the monopoly, at least fire every administrator and staff member above the level of school principal and privatize as many school services as possible. The U.S. spends waaaayyyy more on education at all levels than any other country (okay, I think there is one tiny place in Europe that spends more per capita, but that's the only exception). The existence of temporary classrooms is a testament to the incompetence of school administration. School board members have no legitimate job function; they just take taxpayer-funded fact-finding junkets and compose "7 steps to excellence" plans or "12 way points to the future" schemes while drawing preposterously high salaries and benefits and babbling about diversity and the need to hire more teachers, the same teachers whose union dues help get the school board members elected, the same school board members whose salaries, benefits and staff costs could cover the cost of more teachers, whose union dues would help to keep the board members in their positions, which are used to advocate hiring more teachers, whose union dues ...

Concur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108965)

Why are we spending hundreds of millions of dollars for works of art, when pole barn construction can create a completely acceptable building for a tenth of the cost. Hell, dead shopping centers and malls are perfect opportunities to re-use existing structures that already have all of the infrastructure in place except for playground space (asphalt is not a playground surface).

In School Retention (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#47107729)

My kids' school finally got to an enrollment where classes won't be held in trailers. But, the trailers will still be used. The school district is thinking that expulsion and suspension do more harm than good when students are left unsupervised, so they are switching to more in school retention. The trailers are going to be used for that.

Re:In School Retention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107787)

My kids' school finally got to an enrollment where classes won't be held in trailers. But, the trailers will still be used. The school district is thinking that expulsion and suspension do more harm than good when students are left unsupervised, so they are switching to more in school retention. The trailers are going to be used for that.

So their policy is, let the fuck-ups suffer the toxic air. I'm sure they worded it more euphamistically than that.

Re:In School Retention (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108245)

The bad part is that an NRA shirt is enough to be considered a fuck-up with the libtards running the schools. Of course Slashdot is full of libtards too:

Why is Slashdot full of libtards?

-Most libtards don't have jobs so they can comment on things they don't understand like energy policy all day as they don't care what the working man pays for energy as long as they feel good about controlling people for bullshit reasons like global warming.

-Slashdot posts stories about solar panels and electric cars that appeal to libtards. Libtards love to push shitty technology on everyone to jack up the price of energy so we have to live in a third world hellhole again all over bullshit global warming.

-Slashdot is very LGBTQ friendly. While this in itself is not a problem this combined with all of the libtards means that straight white men are nothing but targets and I'm fucking tired of this!

-Slashdot has the Anonymous Coward feature which means libtards can show their real racist tendencies.

-Lastly most people here love Obama who is the ultimate libtard. Even mention conservatives and you get modded until oblivion.

Re:In School Retention (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 7 months ago | (#47108341)

-Slashdot has the Anonymous Coward feature which means libtards can show their real racist tendencies.

the irony....

Re:In School Retention (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 7 months ago | (#47108431)

Anyone using the term "libtard" is already displaying serious mental derangement and cannot be taken seriously anyway

Re:In School Retention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108609)

Anyone using the term "libtard" is already displaying serious mental derangement and cannot be taken seriously anyway

Once you start throwing around terms like "libtard", "dumbocrat", "repugnican" and such whatever point you had goes right out the window.

Re:In School Retention (0, Troll)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#47108069)

You mean school should more resemble the prison the kids will end up in? Maybe the district should use prisoner transfer buses also. You know get the kids all familiarized and stuff. The hell with trailers, let's use shipping containers. That school to prison pipeline is getting mighty fat.

Re:In School Retention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108399)

burn that shit down.

also, any polis who vote against school funding. they should be worried about their things burning too.

also, the idiot trophy wifes who fuck up the school board. burn their implants and hair down.

Re:In School Retention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108705)

(sarcasm) awesome, the school district now also runs a prison.

Terrible ventilation v. heat exhaustion (3, Interesting)

JJJJust (908929) | about 7 months ago | (#47107773)

When I was in high school and they were adding on and renovating, everybody wanted as many classes in the portables as possible because they had air conditioning and our 50 year old school building didn't.

I'm sure more was learned in them than could have been learned in a 90 degree classroom.

Re:Terrible ventilation v. heat exhaustion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108489)

That was the case in my high school as well. No air conditioning - 90+ degrees and 100% humidity, with the stench from the sewage treatment plant across the street wafting in through the open windows. It was awful. The portable classrooms were air conditioned and were much better than the main building.

The same year a nearby state prison was closed because it wasn't air conditioned.

Re:Terrible ventilation v. heat exhaustion (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 7 months ago | (#47108625)

It was that way at one of the elementary schools when I was growing up. Most of the schools did not have the "problem" because they had extra class rooms because of end of segregation. They made elementary 1-5, "kindergarten was added a few years latter." Sixth grade was moved to the black elementary school and seventh grade to the black high school.

My elementary school had no AC until I was in 5th grade. It was supposed to but they didn't want to spend the money at the time. The joys of first grade in south florida in a school with no AC and windows facing north south when the wind is east west. The good part was the south side of the building had few windows and a large overhang.

Oxymoron (2)

Calydor (739835) | about 7 months ago | (#47107781)

Sustainable but temporary. Maybe it's just because English isn't my first language but I really fail to see how you can have both; or why you would WANT both.

Re:Oxymoron (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47107975)

It's only absurd if you consider it to be a closed system. If the trailers are portable, then they can be reused at another site once construction is complete. Temporary, reusable trailers can be better for the environment than other alternatives:
- Refurbishing an older building for temporary use.
- Building non-mobile temporary structure.
- Clearing a vacant spot of land for the new structure.

Some of these old school building have inefficient boilers that are over 40 years old... they aren't exactly winning any efficiency awards. Moving students to a temporary location and then rehabilitating or replacing the old facility can be a net environmental gain.

Re:Oxymoron (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#47108121)

Some of these old school building have inefficient boilers that are over 40 years old... they aren't exactly winning any efficiency awards. Moving students to a temporary location and then rehabilitating or replacing the old facility can be a net environmental gain.

Sure, that's one possibility.

But, allow me to offer another.

Where I live, schools seem to be going up quite fast. Without exception, within a few months of the school opening (if not before), they truck in the portables.

Brand new schools, with portables.

So, either school boards are uniformly stupid, and can't add. Or cities are failing to make the developers pay enough to build adequate schools for the amount of houses they build. Or school boards are so under funded, they start off designing a school they know will be outgrown before its even open.

In any case, from what I see, they're being used to compensate for short-sighted planning or too-small budgets on brand new schools more than they're being used for generating any net environmental gain due to remediating old heating systems.

But every single school near me, some built withing the last 3 years, most built in the last 10, has portables. And they more are less going to be there permanently.

Re:Oxymoron (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#47108237)

I obviously cannot argue that the permanent use of temporary systems is good practice.

Re:Oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108343)

So, either school boards are uniformly stupid, and can't add. Or cities are failing to make the developers pay enough to build adequate schools for the amount of houses they build. Or school boards are so under funded, they start off designing a school they know will be outgrown before its even open.

In Texas, the tax rate that districts are allowed to levy is capped by state law. There are actually two tax rates: one for maintenance and operation, and one for debt service. Debt can only be financed from that second tax bucket.

This makes things VERY difficult for districts experiencing rapid growth. Rapid growth demands more school buildings, which requires more debt. But state law dictates the revenue that districts may receive for paying down this debt, which ultimately caps the amount of debt that districts can take on. It can take a while for tax revenues from that growth to be received by the district. In my district's case we built 21 new schools in 13 years. And now we're planning to go back to the voters and ask for more money to build more schools because the district is still growing.

I hope it's clear why temporary buildings are a solution in some cases.

Re:Oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108365)

I hope it's clear why temporary buildings are a solution in some cases.

Yes, stupid laws.

But then, that's Texas for you.

Re:Oxymoron (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 7 months ago | (#47108943)

There is also the question of what will your district look like in a decade or so? will it still be full of families with school-age children? or will it be full of older people whose kids have moved on to a new area?

Re:Oxymoron (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 7 months ago | (#47108533)

The schools should be designed in a modular fashion that accommodates growth in 25%-35% increments. Unfortunately, that makes your first increment cost 30-50% more and doesn't save much in the future phases.

Re:Oxymoron (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#47108557)

Where I live, schools seem to be going up quite fast. Without exception, within a few months of the school opening (if not before), they truck in the portables.

Brand new schools, with portables.

So, either school boards are uniformly stupid, and can't add. Or cities are failing to make the developers pay enough to build adequate schools for the amount of houses they build. Or school boards are so under funded, they start off designing a school they know will be outgrown before its even open.

.. Or the portables are intended to serve a different, specific purpose. Do you know which classes are held in them?

When they started putting mobiles in the school lots back home, I got suspicious. When they moved all the LD and "bad kid" classes into them, I had my suspicions confirmed - the portables exist to segregate groups of "undesirables" from the rest of the student body, likely to limit their influence both on attitudes and government-mandated test scores on which funding is based.

They even have their own buses; it's like 2 different schools sharing one parcel of land.

Re:Oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47109121)

The LD kids always made me uneasy. Best they were in the trailers and on the short bus.

Re:Oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108047)

Well, it's like this. In some areas, "temporary" can mean "until we get a referendum passed to fund school construction". Take the high school I went to, as an example. For years, they wanted to expand because of classroom overcrowding but didn't have the budget to do so, and couldn't get the voters to pass a referendum because the majority of people voting were seniors who didn't want their property taxes going up.

As a result, they bought three or four temporary classrooms, which they kept for something like ten years, until the parents and students finally got fed up and passed a referendum to fund an expansion of the school. It's the same way pretty much across the country.

Re:Oxymoron (3, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 7 months ago | (#47108065)

They want an environmentally/economically sustainable way of having temporary classrooms when they need them. A similar example would be disposable cutlery. Petroleum based plastic cups are intended to be temporary, but they are not sustainable because they deplete natural resources and do not biodegrade. By contrast, there are now cups that fit that role made from plant products, but will break down after a month or two of environmental exposure. These cups are intended to be temporarily used, but their design is at least intended to be sustainable.

Re:Oxymoron (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 7 months ago | (#47108487)

Because a classroom is unlikely to be utilized at capacity for its 50-year lifespan given fluctuating enrollment.

New subdivision built in year 1, year 4-5 the elementary school in the neighborhood has an enrollment boom, then a bust around year 10-14. The next boom isn't likely until the first families in the development move on and new young couples move in and have kids, which is likely around year 25. So, a trailer that is installed in anticipation of the boom can be demolished during the bust at the end of its life, and a new trailer can be provided for the next boom. Very efficient.

Unfortunately, the problem is that the trailers are never removed, and what was intended to be temporary becomes permanent.

Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that it is hard for schools to get money (because they often spend it poorly).

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107815)

"What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms." Why on earth do we need temporary classrooms at all? Do we project a decline in the number of children in the US? If not, what we need is permanent classrooms, that are built with the long term in mind. We need to adequately fund school districts so they aren't forced into buying the cheapest thing they can because they can't afford a real classroom.

Re:What? (1)

jabuzz (182671) | about 7 months ago | (#47108361)

You need temporary classrooms because something is going on in the school that puts existing permanent classrooms out of action for a "short" period. That might be for example refurbishment of an existing classrooms or even something far more dramatic such as a fire. In these scenarios the construction of permanent classrooms would be stupid.

Re:What? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 7 months ago | (#47109311)

And you also need them because sometimes your demographic predictions say that a local increase in the number of schoolkids is temporary, or because your demographic predictions were wrong and you need to add capacity quickly.

Global warming is causing bad grades now (1, Funny)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47107829)

KATIE CAMPBELL: Other studies show that, as CO2 levels rise, student performance falls.

Yes, that is an honest-to-god quote from this report. No joke.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47107951)

That's a correlation, a semi-scientific observation. Time goes on, grades are going down while C02 is going up. Why so hysterical?

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47108055)

The statement is clearly meant to strongly imply causation, NOT just correlation. She wasn't just making some random observation like "Did you know that student performance has inversely correlated with the rise of Sour Cream sales in the U.S.? Crazy, huh? Of course, the two things have nothing to do with one another, I just thought it was funny to point out."

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#47108481)

Air is just air, right, CO2 in classrooms is just as good as fresh air.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47108523)

You are aware that "fresh air" has CO2 in it, right? And be very grateful that it does.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (3, Informative)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 7 months ago | (#47108005)

No, it's actually quite right.

Just yesterday I happened upon a presentation by a company called Swegon, which designs and manufactures ventillation system equipment, in which they showed a material from a British researcher who (I believe on their proposal) had arranged measurements of student performance as a function of class CO2 levels and classroom temperature and the effect on the speed with which students performed diverse simple tasks, like adding numbers, multiplication, etc. and overall it turned out to drop by 30% as CO2 reached the worst levels.

In some schools the CO2 levels reached about 2000 ppm. The idea that this doesn't affect people is ridiculous and properly designed ventillation systems are important.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#47108263)

Would it sound less weird if they said, Studies Show Glucose and Oxygen Help Brain [go.com] ? Your brain (like the rest of your body) is a chemical reactor and needs fuel - that is glucose + oxygen. You can't just breathe the same air over and over all day.

I doubt anybody (but you) linked it to global warming. Am I right?

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 7 months ago | (#47108295)

I think it's along the lines of "if my girlfriend is menstruating, I don't get sex."

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108389)

I doubt anybody (but you) linked it to global warming. Am I right?

Hippies have made CO2 into their religion's equivalent of Satan now. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if a majority of them seriously supported an proposal to eliminate all CO2 from the earth's atmosphere--with no clue on why that would be a very, very bad idea.

And to them, it's all related.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 7 months ago | (#47108321)

You do realize that they're talking about indoor CO2 levels that are far in excess of the overall atmospheric levels related to global warming?

Moreover, they do not imply that the CO2 itself causes poor performance. It's clear that they're using it as a *measure* of poor ventilation, which is correlated with bad grades.

Maybe it was a little stuffy in the school where you were learning analytic reading skills.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47108445)

If they're not "implying that the CO2 itself causes poor performance" and it's just about measuring poor ventilation, then why are they using rising CO2 as the gauge instead of the much more relevant declining O2 levels?

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 7 months ago | (#47108731)

then why are they using rising CO2 as the gauge instead of the much more relevant declining O2 levels?

Your body measures CO2 levels, not O2 levels, to know when to breathe. Your brain will go into full scale psychedelic freakout mode [erowid.org] if CO2 levels are high even in there's plenty of O2. CO2 is incredibly relevant.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 7 months ago | (#47109129)

Because CO2 is present in parts per million, whereas oxygen is around 20%. If amount of CO2 increases by a few hundred percent, the amount of oxygen drops by a small fraction of 1%. It is much easier and more accurate to measure the difference in CO2 concentrations than that of O2.

Perhaps you shouldn't be throwing barbs about global warming if this middle-school-level science wasn't already obvious to you.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108535)

My guess: he's a GOP-paid astroturfer.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (2)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47108607)

And my guess is that you're a idiot.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 7 months ago | (#47108665)

Moreover, they do not imply that the CO2 itself causes poor performance.

Actually, some of the levels they measured are high enough for that to be plausible.

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 7 months ago | (#47108605)

KATIE CAMPBELL: Other studies show that, as CO2 levels rise, student performance falls.

Yes, that is an honest-to-god quote from this report. No joke.

Yes. Hypercapnia can affect mental function and some of the levels they measured are high enough to be symptomatic.

It's not "Wharrgarbl global warming!", it's "The ventilation in these schools is so shitty that students are suffering CO2 poisoning!".

Re:Global warming is causing bad grades now (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#47109017)

Yes, that is an honest-to-god quote from this report. No joke.

You know, relatively small shifts in CO2 percentage do cause shifts in attitude and attention. And guess what? We were at 400 ppm all over the globe just a few days ago, when we should be below 350. Suckit.

Good times, good times (1)

Xacid (560407) | about 7 months ago | (#47107909)

Strangely, the classes I remember the most were in those trailers. Those teachers seemed to have a lot more autonomy and utilized it. "The whole class is looking tired - let's go for a walk around the trailers to get some fresh air while I continue the discussion." It's also plausible that it's entirely psychological in that I only remember them more because it was that different of an environment. I do seem to recall, however, the teachers who had those wanted to be out there and made the most of it.

As for the air quality - I know this isnt practical for all climates but we often simply...left the doors open and enjoyed the weather. I wonder if doing that periodically solves this whole "toxic air" problem.

Contradictory (1)

countach (534280) | about 7 months ago | (#47107935)

Energy efficiency and good ventilation are pretty much two concepts at odds. Preventing air circulation with the outside combined with insulation is one of the two most important ways to make a building energy efficient. The other important method is thermal mass. i.e having the building full of concrete and brick, which is also at odds with temporary structures. If you have enough thermal mass, you can afford a bit more ventilation without losing all the heat instantly.

So as far as I see, this is pie in the sky. You'll have to build it permanent. If its there for decades, is it really temporary anyway?

Re:Contradictory (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 7 months ago | (#47108309)

Or how about the fact that parents send their kids to school sick vs. losing a day of wages or worse yet spending for a doctor to get the kid better? Schools are petri dishes for everything and anything. There are however air to air heat exchangers that can minimize energy loss and provide enough fresh air. The problem with those is cost. Meh, maybe they should just open up a window once in awhile.

Yey democracy (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#47107983)

Here's a solution: permanent manufactured modular housing -- construction quality (or better), not a mobile home, and cranked out cheaply at a factory.

You'll have to overturn several legal regimes protecting their domains, like building inspectors, housng regulations, and a million construction workers voting for politicians who keep the status quo.

Ahhh, forget it. "Freedom" hasn't swept it aside in five decades, why should "environmentalism", "for the children", or some other meme succeed?

Did we check for confounding variables? (1)

roystgnr (4015) | about 7 months ago | (#47108095)

Or is there really nothing other than CO2 levels which correlates strongly [tylervigen.com] with the use of portable classrooms and with absenteeism? Perhaps low socioeconomic status has nothing to do with which school districts have more trouble affording permanent buildings? Perhaps higher numbers of children per family are unrelated to which schools are overcrowded?

It's hard to tell, when the bibliography consists of "studies show".

What's sad is that this is still better-than-average science and science reporting. We got an actual transcript, and the correlation seems to be at least a step above the "people who wear parachutes are more likely to die in skydiving accidents!" level which is so good at grabbing headlines.

Re:Did we check for confounding variables? (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 7 months ago | (#47108339)

naw, just blame the formaldehyde. [santa-cruz.ca.us] What do you expect from all of these retarded "studies" nowadays with per-conceived, sponsored "facts?"

Re:Did we check for confounding variables? (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47108785)

This report openly acknowledges that it was sponsored by an organization called "EarthFix." Care to guess how fair and balanced they are?

waste (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#47108249)

I'll never understand this. In my city there are at LEAST 4 abandon super markets. There are many other abandon commercial spaces. In one grocery store they abandon, they actually built new businesses in the parking lot, feet away from the front door, making the building totally unusable. These are not run down, older buildings infested with rats. In many cases they are less than 20yrs old!

When this country was founded, government functions were held in local business buildings. Often older buildings were taken over by the city government for use rather than let them turn to blight. Why aren't we doing this now? I could WALK to a 50,000sq/ft building that's been abandon for over 5yrs from where I'm sitting right now. The primary function of city government is zoning. If there is an abandon commercial building they should tell the owner to either develop it, tare it down and turn it residential or sell it to the city to be used for things like emergency classrooms.

Re:waste (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 7 months ago | (#47108775)

Our school board is in an old mall so it still is done.
For a School it is harder to do that? Where do you put the play ground?

Re:waste (1)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#47108897)

Where do you put the play ground?

Parking lot.

Re:waste (1)

Joel Cahoon (2906501) | about 7 months ago | (#47109157)

I'll never understand this.

Why aren't we doing this now?

they should

You make some excellent points. Have you brought them to the attention of others in your community, and to your city/county/state government? Change doesn't magically happen. Don't be an armchair politician and then complain when things don't happen the way you think they should. Get involved!

Misstated (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#47108367)

No, what's needed is an infinite supply of money, of course. Now, if you don't have a handy Leprechaun or fairy dust, then I guess you're screwed.

Too many internet stories (commentaries, blogs, whatever) fail to comprehend what in negotiations is called BATNA - essentially, what's the real alternative?

The reason we USE temporary classrooms is because we're stuck with the realities of too many kids, short budgets, poor planning, construction schedules, or a combination of the above.

Making temporary structures more expensive - ie, something better than shoddy little temporary structures - means more cost, meaning less classrooms, meaning in reality such a thing would result in more crowded permanent classrooms. Is that better or worse than some special snowflakes getting the sniffles a little? (I genuinely don't know, maybe it is. I was supposed to be in a temporary trailer-office for 3-4 months, it ended up being 26. I know how they suck.)

Re:Misstated (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 7 months ago | (#47108611)

Money is kept artificially scarce. Shadow banks create hundreds of trillions of dollars.

  But the real solution is online education.

Re:Misstated (1)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#47109149)

No, what's needed is an infinite supply of money, of course.

This study was done in Washington State. Now I don't know about the rest of the state, but in Seattle, the school district (and its funds) are being pulled in a number of directions, none of which are economicaly optimal.

First, there's the neighborhood school interests. In the past, many small schools were constructed to put them in all the neighborhoods. But economics (and common sense) dictates that consolidating these into fewer, larger buildings is the way to go. Now, try fighting that battle with all of the parents' groups when they learn that their local school will be shut down.

And then there's the historical monument group. Many of Seattle's older schools are brick buildings. In an earthquake zone. Seismic refitting is very expensive, often much more than calling in the bulldozer and building new to code. But both the neighborhood school interest groups and the historical building preservation groups push money into maintaining these crumbling relics.

What's needed is more math in zoning/building (2)

kick6 (1081615) | about 7 months ago | (#47108421)

I don't know if this is the same for the rest of the country, but in Texas public schools seemed to be created for the CURRENT overflow in existing schools. Of note that, especially in the Houston area, residence creation is still blowing and going.

So what results is a school is planned to be built for the, say, 3000 student overflow in surrounding schools. Then 4 years later when the doors open...there's 6000 kids going to that school necessitating temporary buildings from day one. Someone needs to hire a damn mathematician to, oh I don't know, trend the population growth or some fancy-pantsy thing?

"sustainable" "sustainable" "sustainable"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108427)

Agenda 21.

http://guardianlv.com/2013/09/agenda-21-revealed-you-need-to-know-this/

Why didn't they just build proper classrooms out of strawbales? Dirt cheap, the children could participate and learn about how houses are built at the same time (can't have that) and they wouldn't need much heating or cooling.

Funding for Better Buildings? (1)

Striikerr (798526) | about 7 months ago | (#47108575)

I have never understood the mentality of throwing out these portables for students to use as a classroom. I see many schools here in South Florida using these portables as a permanent solution to inadequate classrooms. Before anyone says "but the school system can't afford to build new ones" keep in mind that in Florida, the lottery proceedings which the state takes in are supposed to go towards the school system. If the government would properly fund school sour of the normal budget and then allocate lottery revenue AFTER instead of including it as a part of meeting the budget (thus allocating the other funds elsewhere). If the school system actually got the lottery revenue after the base budgets were met, the school system would be a lot better off and these portables would not be a permanent structure.

Re:Funding for Better Buildings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108689)

That goes against the Libertarian and Republican goal of taking the government completely out of the education process.

They want to ensure that children only get the education their parents can afford. Sucks if you have to choose between food and education.

About Time This Was Exposed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108743)

Disclaimer: I worked for Texas school districts for years. Texas is a shame in this regard. There are so many of these buildings it's not even funny. Like so much of Texas, these buildings are redneck, barely maintained and wholly preventable. Texas school districts spend the vast majority of their money on two things: salaries and sports. I have been for salary caps for years and Texas school administrators are making bank -- literally. The last school district I worked for just last year, the superintendent makes a disgusting $250,000 salary. That's ludicrous. Principals make over $100,000. Yet... there are starving children, kids whose parents are in prison, living in squalor, you name it. But ol' capitalist Tex has his nice car, nice home, big office, secretary, and TRS pension plan. Let's not forget that little Johnny has the best sports equipment money can buy, the newest sports complex. Meanwhile, the books are years old and out of date, the computers are from 10 years ago, STEM is a dirty word, and so much more. Educators are in it for the money a lot of them. I've heard this sentiment with my own ears in the teachers' lounge. I cannot think of another job whereby you work for 9 months, get paid for 12, have more time off than almost any other profession, and can still earn near 100k. This is prevalent in quite a few Texas school districts. Shameful. Damn redneck capitalists...

I liked the portable classrooms more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47108795)

The portable classrooms always had better air conditioning than the regular classrooms, as well as less ants and newer furniture.

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