Temporary Classrooms Becoming Permanent Problem in Los Angeles

Children with teacher at school.
Even though the Los Angeles Unified School District has dropped billions in funding on the construction of new campuses since 2003, it’s still using thousands of “portable” or “temporary” classrooms, which are becoming quite problematic.

Although LA Unified has tried to reduce the number of temporary classrooms, about 30% of available class space in LA Unifed is portable, which means there are some 8,300 portable facilities still in use.

Worse, the district is required to remove about 58 temporary classrooms that aren’t meeting current standards by the end of September, yet there’s no plan or funding available to discontinue all of them. According to Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter, the only available funds would cover just 88% of the necessary work.

Although if Hovatter had his way, all the portable classrooms would be gone, not just the ones that aren’t meeting standards. In a recent address to the school board’s Budget, Facilities, Audit Committee, Hovatter listed all the problems the portable classrooms were causing.

“We’ve got a lot of campuses that when they were built and designed, were beautiful campuses. Some received national awards,” said Hovatter. “Dorsey High received a national award for the layout of the campus. But then we came in and plopped down portables in places without taking into consideration the effectiveness and the flow of that campus, and it created an environment that you wouldn’t have believed had won a national design [award].”

In some schools, the portable classrooms have been set up in faculty parking lots, forcing teachers to park on the street. Consequently, staff have received parking tickets.

Often times, temporary structures are made out of tough fabrics, which offer wind load ratings from 75 to 120 miles per hour and snow load or live load ratings ranging from 12 to 40 pounds per square foot. Portable classrooms, however, are more like trailers, and are even sometimes called modular classroom trailers, making them more difficult to remove

LA United cannot just have a truck haul them away. Many have been around for years and years, and now require special permits to get rid of. Fences and power poles also need to be removed to get certain portables out as well. There are even portables blocking other portables, some of which are the ones that the district is required to remove.

Financially speaking, removing the portables is also difficult. The cost of getting rid of just one temporary classroom could reach as high as $100,000.

But with no clear solution or adequate funding in sight, it seems that the temporary classrooms will remain permanent for now.

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