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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:59 am | Fair 51º


Santa Maria-Bonita School District to Buy 26 Portable Buildings Due to Growth

Citing an influx of students, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District will purchase 26 portable buildings to provide additional classrooms, primarily at junior high campuses.

The Santa Maria-Bonita board of trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved the acquiring the portables for between $1.2 million and $1.6 million.

The new classrooms are planned for 11 of the district’s 20 campuses, officials said.

Santa Maria-Bonita is a kindergarten through eighth-grade district with more than 16,500 students.

Half of the new portable buildings will go to junior high campuses, he noted. 

“There is just no room at junior high right now for the additional 150 or so students we expect next year and the additional 150 or so we expect the year after that,” said Interim Superintendent Matthew Beecher. “These portable buildings are adding capacity to the junior highs in order to house those students. It’s our only option.”

Four portable buildings are planned for each of three junior high school campuses — Arellanes, Fesler and El Camino.

Arellanes also will see a fifth portable building to house a county special education program. 

Miller Elementary School will get three portable buildings, while Ontiveros, Battles and Alvin will gain two apiece. 

One portable classroom is expected for each of Adam, Oakley, Rice and Tunnell elementary schools. 

The modular classroom expansion project comes as the district expects to grow by 500 students, officials said.

Jose Segura, president of the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association, asked why the district was considering portable buildings now, after officials rejected them several years ago as the teachers’ union lobbied for smaller class sizes. 

“The district was very clear at that time — our sites did not have the infrastructure to handle the load of additional portables,” Segura said. “This was repeated to us over and over to the point where I actually repeat this to my members now when they ask me why we haven’t added portables to our sites.”

“At that point, additional portables were off the table as an option,” Segura added. “The question is, what has changed since then?”

Beecher said district officials were telling the truth years ago because the best places for portable buildings on the campuses already have been taken.

“We’re going to have to add capacity for power, capacity for infrastructure, capacity for those type of things to make these portables functional,” he said.

“The arrival of those students is what has changed,” Beecher added. “They’re here now.”

Board member JoAnn "Jody" Oliver asked if the modular buildings would be temporary until the new school opens. 

“My experience in the district with portable buildings is that they always have a life in the district, is that there is always a place we can use portable buildings,”  Beecher said, adding those not used for classrooms end up being used for storage, staff lounge or to house special programs.

A planned new elementary school funded by Measure T — a $45-million measure approved by voters in 2014 to build a new campus and renovate the older 19 campuses — won’t be ready in time to fill the need. 

Measure T funds will help pay some of the costs of the portable buildings, Beecher said.

To acquire the modular buildings, the district will use cooperative purchasing agreements from other agencies — Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose from Mobile Modular and Chawanakee Unified School District in Madera County with Class Leasing Inc. 

Beecher said he hoped to get the classrooms from one vendor, but wanted to keep the option of a second supplier.

“They both have said we have everything you need …,” Beecher said. “But I’m way too skeptical, this project is way too critical, for me to put all of our eggs in just one of these baskets.” 

District officials must identify which modular building will go on a campus before Division of State Architect officials will approve the paperwork granting permission for installation, he added.

“That’s why we’re moving as quick as we can,” he said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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