Merced schools ditch portable units

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comAugust 25, 2013 

With 90 additional classrooms now available at the brand-new El Capitan High School in Merced, many of the county’s portables are no longer needed. Nearly all of them have been removed.

BEA AHBECK CASSON — Merced Sun-Star

— John Olson isn't sorry to see the portables go.

Olson, principal of Merced High School, recently said goodbye to 16 portable classrooms. The space they used to occupy has unexpectedly become somewhat of a park-like setting.

Leonard Kahn, assistant superintendent of business services for the Merced Union High School District, said 32 portables have been removed, 16 of them at Merced High School and 15 at Golden Valley High School. Eight other portables also have been relocated.

Kahn said with 90 additional classrooms now available at the brand-new El Capitan High School, the portables are no longer needed. Their average age was at least 10 years old. Nearly all of them were leased and have been turned back to their owner.

Kahn said as part of their lease the district was contractually obligated to pay about $8,000 each to return them to their owners. He said portables aren't an ideal environment for students, and their disposal often is expensive.

Some old portables are sent abroad while others are scrapped. It is believed there are more than 300,000 portable classrooms in use in the United States, about half of them owned by leasing companies. Portables generally are designed to last about 20 years.

Olson said the place where about 10 of the aging portables were located at Merced High School now has sod. The school's band ensembles practice on the new turf in the afternoon.

"It's beautiful," Olson said. "It looks like a park. It's changed the campus. It's so much more spacious. It looks cleaner and neater."

At Golden Valley, Principal Constantino Aguilar also is pleased that 15 portables are gone. Now the school's tennis courts are visible across the campus along with Veterans Stadium.

Aguilar said now there is more area for the physical education department to use and it is much easier to supervise the students.

"It looks gorgeous in back of the campus," Aguilar said. "The portables had become an eyesore."

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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