Columbia County schools need extra portable classrooms to fit record number of students

Friday, August 1, 2014

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's the last weekend before kids start heading back to the classroom, and in these final days of summer, the schools are doing as much preparing as the students, especially Columbia County.

Come Wednesday, a record 25,000 kids will be going back to school there, and they're having to add more classrooms to fit the load.

Teachers are busy getting their classrooms ready, but when the bell rings next Wednesday, some Columbia County students will have to walk outside to get to class.

"Especially at the elementary level. We're busting at the seams at elementary," Associate Superintendent Jeff Carney said.

Carney says with Cyber Command bringing families by the thousands, portable classrooms are the only way to fit all the kids.

"Baker Place Elementary that had two portables, next year will have ten because we're moving that many in," Carney said.

Baker Place isn't the only school gaining portable classrooms. While it sits atop the list with ten, Greenbrier Elementary will house seven. Euchee Creek Elementary will have two, and Cedar Ridge is getting one.

"Our facilities people have been moving portables from schools that have them. We have a number of schools that have portables that don't use them. They're either empty or they store stuff in them," Carney explained.

But, after breaking several out of storage, some are concerned about the cleanliness of their kids' new learning homes, claiming they're also home to roaches, mice, and maybe even mold.

"I would say it's possible. Any room can have roaches, portable or not portable. If you have food somewhere, it's going to have roaches unfortunately. But, what we do is we clean them thoroughly. We're not going to put our students in a sub-standard classroom, be it a portable or a classroom in a building," Carney said.

He says once they're moved, the classrooms get cleaned, the floors get stripped, and the tiles get waxed, just like an inside classroom. Custodians are working overtime to get them student-ready on a tight deadline.

"We know whether we like it or not, kids are coming next Wednesda,y and it's up to us to have the classrooms ready for them," Carney said. "We'll be ready for next week. That's no doubt."

Moving the portables is not cheap. It costs 5,000 dollars per portable to move from one school to the other. Carney says that's still the most cost effective option.

He says they hope to re-zone this fall to help even out some of the population.

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