Until 1998, the State of California mandated school districts to invest a third of state construction funds into portables ostensibly to save costs and prevent overcrowding. This restriction was lifted with the Leroy F. Green School Facilities Act of 1998, but school districts like ours got into the habit of portables . . . . that then became permanent fixtures.
Starting the 1990s, reports spread across the state about children being sickened in portables by formaldehyde and other fumes that can off-gas for decades from these temporary classrooms. See these sample investigative reports on air quality hazards in portables:
In the early 2000s, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) carried out an extensive study on air quality in portable classrooms. The study found problems with noise, climate, moisture, mold, formaldehyde, lighting and toxic residues in floor (usually carpet) dust. Santa Cruz conducted its own investigation of portables and found similar troubles.
Here in Woodland, the coalition has received complaints about children getting headaches and other symptoms from portables throughout the district. Mold may be one issue, among others. We don't know how much, but in the past, the school district spent considerable money on mold remediation for portables.
At the September 2017 Facilities Advisory Committee meeting, coalition members raised concerns about the deeper issue of health in portable classrooms and offered to help the district write grants and raise money to create permanent buildings. Unfortunately, Assistant Superintendent Lewis Wiley canceled all three spring meetings of the committee after we started asking hard questions and then dissolved it entirely.
To date, no trustee or executive staff member has taken up our challenge to spend a day experiencing the air in a portable classroom, much less a week, much less ten months or a twenty year teaching career.
Spring Lake Elementary construction ran over budget and the district plans to put three grade levels permanently into portables. [LINK to PDF ARTICLE]
Don’t our children deserve more humane conditions for learning?
See more information on portables and the innovative new approach to portables that one Seattle, Washington elementary school is using: