Schools may be empty due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but come fall, Seymour Community School Corp. officials expect to have even more students than the current school year.
To prepare for the growth in enrollment, the district is adding two portable classrooms, one at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School and the other at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.
Both units are 44-by-24-feet in size and provide 1,056-square feet of additional classroom space. The total cost for the two units is $87,312.38, which includes delivery, setup and monthly payments over the next two years.
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Brown already has been using two portable units since the second semester of 2019 and will continue to lease those for two more years, giving the school a total of three portable classrooms for 2020-21.
One is used for English Language Learners classes, and the other is used for music. The new unit at Brown will have sinks so it can be used for art.
During the April 14 school board meeting, Dave Stark, director of grounds and facilities, requested the board approve a two-year rental agreement with Williams Scotsman Inc. to supply the two new classrooms and to renew the lease for the two being used at Brown for another two years.
Board members agreed to suspend their rules requiring a first read before taking action so there will be enough time to order the units and get them in place and ready for students before school starts in August.
Superintendent Brandon Harpe said the district has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade.
“Our district is now well over 5,000 students for the first time,” he said. “We are working with the board to come up with solutions to address our crowding. Portables are a short-term solution that we have been using, but we continue to work on longer-term solutions that will keep portables from being added in the future.”
Brown started the current school year with 628 students and has gained 52 new students throughout the school year for a total of 680 students as of April 1.
In 2013, Brown leased two portable classrooms prior to adding four kindergarten classrooms. Since that project was completed in 2015, the school has had to make room for a fifth kindergarten class and fifth first grade class.
Its current enrollment makes Brown the largest elementary school in the corporation, followed by Redding. The third largest is Seymour-Jackson Elementary School at 639 students, not counting preschool.
“The board has been very supportive of the growth at Brown and in all SCSC schools,” Principal Tony Hack said. “The portable structures have been a quick option to address some aggressive growth.”
Redding has grown a total of 82 students this year, going from 588 at the beginning of the school year to 670 students as of April 1. Also designed as a four-section school, Redding now has five kindergarten and five first grade classes, too.
The school also is home to the corporation’s Life Skills and B.E.S.T. special education programs along with a Child Care Network-run preschool program and has expanded its ELL services. The portable will be used for preschool and Kids Klub before- and after-school programs.
“Due to our increased growth and the special programs we offer our students, a portable unit is necessary to continue offering the programs we do and maintain the integrity of our class sizes to maximize instruction,” Principal Steve Bush said.
Although growth can be challenging, Bush said Redding is fortunate.
“This is a testament to the tremendous teachers and staff who believe wholeheartedly in our students and families,” he said. “Redding Elementary and Seymour Community Schools are places where students enjoy learning and adults enjoy working.”
He can’t predict what the future will bring in terms of growth, but Bush said whatever happens, the school board and administration will work together to find a solution.
“We are aware of the big picture and are keeping a close eye on our numbers and opportunities for future growth,” he said. “We will continue to make decisions based on what’s best for kids and the community should we continue to grow.”