$5 million in Porter Ranch temporary classrooms expected to be dismantled
Mike Szymanski | March 24, 2016
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The 46 new classrooms installed when two schools were temporarily relocated because of the Porter Ranch gas leak will be taken down once the students go back to their former locations.
The district spent $5 million in building the temporary classrooms that are equipped with heat and air conditioning and required plumbing, wiring, utility poles, paving and other major construction work to create two entire school campuses within other existing school space. The two schools with 1,800 students will be relocated back to their former sites once there’s an all-clear that the air is safe in the Porter Ranch neighborhood.
But the district won’t be keeping the classrooms, nor are they eligible for charter schools in the area that may need the classroom space.
“These sites were designed and erected as temporary facilities, and they will be dismantled after Castlebay Lane Charter and Porter Ranch Community School return to their home campuses,” said LA Unified spokeswoman Barbara Jones. “This move will be made when all health concerns have been resolved and on a schedule that will not disrupt teaching and learning.”
Although the methane gas leak is reportedly plugged up, some residents are still worried about the gas that caused health concerns for students and teachers at the schools near the leak. Superintendent Michelle King said she is monitoring the situation and won’t authorize the schools to move back until she knows it is safe, and so it won’t disrupt their lessons. Most likely, if there’s an all-clear, the schools will return to their locations over the summer, but not before that.
The district wanted to keep the students and teachers together and not split them to multiple school sites in the area. Some classes are held at existing empty classrooms on the campuses, and others had their desks and materials shipped to new temporary classrooms that were located on a playground. LA Unified is not in need of more temporary classrooms because 30 percent of all classroom space districtwide is in temporary classrooms, and the district has been making efforts to reduce unused space.
According to the district, the temporary classrooms are not available for use by charter schools that are seeking empty spaces in district schools under the state’s Prop. 39 law. So the classrooms at Northridge Middle and Sunny Brae Elementary schools will be taken down.
“A couple of charter operators identified Sunny Brae Elementary as their stated geographic area of interest when they filed their requests for Prop. 39 facilities last fall,” Jones said. “None of the charters specifically requested the use of the temporary classroom space occupied by the Castlebay Lane students.”
But because they are built as temporary classrooms, they are exempt from the Prop. 39 inventory, which allows charter schools to occupy spaces not being used at traditional schools.
“The temporary classrooms were placed on the campus to serve only as interim housing during an emergency situation, and state law excludes interim housing from the district’s Prop. 39 inventory,” Jones explained.
Meanwhile, the district expects to be reimbursed for all costs by Southern California Gas.