Why Do We Do This?

9 thoughts on “Why Do We Do This?”

  1. Sure looks like a prison. Ever notice how similar schools and prisons often look?

    My community college was using some of these portable classrooms. I think to handle unexpectedly high enrollment. They aren’t too bad. Not sure how long they will stay.

    1. I also wonder if some districts use portables because they don’t intend to keep the schools permanently open. Sacramento was faced with the paradox of schools closing in some areas while others were scrambling to build new ones due to rapid enrollment fluctuations. Some of the closed schools have been repurposed (temporarily or not), but others remain unused “just in case” they are needed eventually.

  2. I graduated from QHHS in 1968. In 1964 freshman and sophomores spent a year in temporary classrooms at the Antelope Valley Fair grounds. We were in an exposition hall divided into several plywood classrooms. There was no ceiling so you could hear the other classes if you were bored with your own class. We managed to learn just fine in that circumstance. I like what they have done with their glue boxes. It makes perfect sense economically and apparently they are getting good educational results if QHHS is still highly regarded. Once I left in 1968 I never looked back to the God-forsaken Antelope Valley. Listen to Frank Zappa’s “Village of the Sun”. perfect summation of life in the high desert in my opinion. ” wind blows so hard blows the paint off your car”. (Frank Zappa grew up around there, my high school English teacher was so privileged to teach him during her career.)

  3. Thanks for the post. I’ve often wondered myself why we think it’s acceptable to put our children in spaces like this for 6-7 hours a day. We have such misplaced priorities when it comes to public spending. I also live in California and know Prop 13 is part of the problem. We need to figure out how to fully finance actual school construction. Every public school in my town has some of these on their campus. Most have probably been there 20 years or more. I worked at an architectural office that was going to replace the modular classrooms at a private school. The ‘temporary’ classrooms had been in place for 20 years. We could literally pull off the T1-11 siding with our hands. That was 10 years ago and the modulars are still there. Even the expensive private school hasn’t found the resources to replace them. I think they’ve become so ubiquitous that we don’t even fully see them for what they are anymore.

  4. Wow, what a depressing space to learn in. I can’t imagine these are conducive to much creativity or productive thinking. Then again, I’ve spent several years in my fair share of depressing-looking school buildings of the permanent type. Maybe we need to rethink school design all together and make it a higher priority.

    Great piece! It’s always interesting to see what’s going on in other parts of the country.

    1. Rachel,

      I see this story on glue box classrooms as part of the same problem as the boy’s athletic club you wrote about on your blog. You can see what a society values by how much money is spent on the built environment. Big suburban homes have manicured lawns and three car garages while the public realm is falling apart. “I have mine. You go get your own.”

  5. “Portables” are everywhere here in Texas. Having taught in them as a public school teacher and priced them out as a Christian school administrator, I can contribute the following:

    1. The standard answer for the use of portables in Texas public schools is the demographic life cycle of schools. When a neighborhood and its school are new, young families are predominant, and the portables are needed to supplement the school space for the ten years or so that the school age population is larger than the long term outlook, for as neighborhoods age the school age population is projected to shrink.

    2. Some portables at some schools do get removed, but that is increasingly the exception. For many neighborhoods that age, the original property owners are replaced these days by Hispanic owners and tenants, with much larger families, so the school population goes up rather than down and the portables stay and often grow in number.

    3. The economics of school building are distorted by the inefficiencies of public labor laws (usually requiring union wages) and the efficiencies of non-union modular building construction. The irony is that portables are used extensively in communities that strictly prohibit modular housing (trailer parks).The cost difference is so great that I’ve seen several hybrid situations where the portables are arranged and covered in such a way that what looks like a “real” school as you drive up is basically a facade to hide or even surround all the portables.

    4. As an administrator in a Christian school about 15 years ago, our board insisted on building an expensive site built school instead of using the portable/hybrid model at about half the cost. I was troubled by this decision, as it necessarily cemented in place a cost structure of very high tuition that the school still battles with today. I believe that the school budget is better directed towards paying teachers more than having fancier buildings.

    5. I liked teaching in portables. There are no common walls so the noise from next door stays next door. You have control over your own HVAC system. There are generally few windows for the students to stare out of. I am concerned that, in Texas , there is insufficient real building space to safely shelter the students when the tornados come.

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