SEBRING — They’re back. The School Board of Highlands County will be bringing in more portable classrooms for the 2014-15 school year.
The portables never disappeared completely after the district’s classroom building boom about five to six years ago. The new schools and new classroom buildings, coupled with declining enrollment, cut the district’s portable numbers considerably.
Now with enrollment on the upswing, some schools are over capacity, prompting the need for more classroom space.
Three district schools are considered “overload schools:” Lake Placid Elementary at 107 percent of capacity, Park Elementary at 105 percent and Sun ‘N Lake Elementary at 102 percent of capacity, said Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger. Sebring Middle and Sebring High School are at 96 percent and 90 percent of capacity, respectively
Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said the district currently owns 64 portables, but about 10 to 12 of them are “real old” and are only used for storage. Previously the district also leased portables.
“We are going to get back into leasing again,” he said.
The district will be adding a total of six portable classrooms at four elementary schools - two at both Sun ‘N Lake and Fred Wild elementary schools and one at both Lake Country and Lake Placid elementary schools, according to Averyt. At this time there are no plans for additional portables at any of the secondary schools.
The district will be leasing the portables at a cost of about $400 per month for each unit.
Averyt said various enrollment projections haven’t been correct and the original projection has been adjusted.
“So we are not projecting an increase; we are not projecting a decrease,” he said. “We are hoping we are going to continue to grow, but it will be incremental - 40 to 50 kids probably; I am not sure.”
It depends on the economy, Averyt said. As soon as the construction starts up the enrollment will start growing again.
The number of portables in the Highlands District peaked around 200 in the 2006-07 school year when about one-third of the students had classes in portables. About 120 of the portables were being leased for about $1 million a year,
The district borrowed $45 million in December 2006, which was used to pay for a portion of the already completed Lake Placid Elementary classroom building and to build Memorial Elementary, renovate a supermarket/shopping center into the Kindergarten Learning Center and for classroom projects at Avon Park, Hill-Gustat and Lake Placid middle schools and all three high schools.
After the new construction, the district eliminated about 140 portables.