by Emma Fitzhugh | news editor
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, six new portables will be located around the athletic and ROTC buildings, according to principal John Mehlbrech.
“We’re gonna get six [portables] all together. Four of them are gonna be empty, they’re [district] just gonna move them because they gotta get them out of the way of the other place [school]. Two of them will be activated; they’ll be ready to go. That’s according to what I’ve been told so far,” Mehlbrech said.
There are several reasons why these portables are being “housed” on campus. With the number of students continuing to grow, there could come a time in the foreseeable future when these facilities are needed, according to Mehlbrech.
“Well, the reason the portables are coming- there’s really two facets to it. With the additional building that’s going on in these schools, from previous bonds, the portables there [at local NEISD schools] aren’t needed anymore, so they’ve gotta find a place for them. We’re getting some because we are almost at capacity with the number of kids- and we still plan on growing- but there’s no plan to add on to the classrooms to the school at this point,” Mehlbrech said.
Over the summer, construction will take place both behind the athletic building and near the ROTC building in order to allocate enough space for these portables. The two
portables that will be used next year will be located behind the ROTC building (see image), while the other four portables will be located behind the athletic building and remain sedentary.
“Each portable has two classrooms, so that’s four additional instruction classrooms that we can use. They plan on bringing them in this summer, setting them, and then wiring two of them you know, for air conditioning, fire alarms and all that safety stuff, and make them accessible,” Mehlbrech said. “So we’re looking at these two being accessible right away, and then the others will sit there until we need them. As population grows, and eventually, down the road, a bond will surface and they’ll say that we need to add on to Johnson.”
No need to worry about these portables affecting parking spaces though, adds Mehlbrech, who goes on to explain how he thinks the district has found “spots” for the portables completely separate from the student parking lot.
“It has not intervered with any parking at all. There is the grass area, and the trees that are there [where the portables will be] will be uprooted and moved to another location, which we’re looking at, and filling in some spots where we thought trees would be good,” Mehlbrech said. “So we’re taking care of that. We wanna make sure we don’t take any parking spaces because we know how valuable those are.”
The cost of building and moving a portable to a different location is expensive though, which is part of the reason why the portables are projected to stay on campus once they are placed.
“Oh yeah, the district has numerous portables. It costs, and this is why they don’t do it often; this is why they look down the road for several years. They cost about $10,000 to move them, and it costs $65,000 to set them up,” Mehlbrech said. “So each move, to set up and to get operational, costs 75,000 bucks, or in that area. So that’s why they don’t move them [portables] very often. That’s why if they do move them, they’re pretty permanent for quite a while. So these will be there for a multitude of years.”
Once the portables are put in place, the next decision will be choosing the teachers that will have class in these facilities, with first priority going to the teachers that “float” between several classrooms throughout the day, according to Mehlbrech.
“That’s our first priority. Then it gets down to, ‘Well, who do we want to be out there?’. To me, it makes sense to have the coaches out there because that’s [athletic building] where they are. Instead of going back and forth between the main building and back out, main building back out,” Mehlbrech said. “If we can find a way to keep them out there, I think that will benefit them as well as the teachers inside here. It keeps their room open. So they can have their conference period, or if they have something they need to do during that time, they’ll have their room to do it in.”
As for the other four portables, even though they will be equipped with all of the necessary equipment over the summer, it is still unclear as to whether they can be used for something other than teaching classes, such as for additional storage space.
“They’re [district] going to have to solidify the foundations, they’ll have to bring in the wiring, the cables; because we’ll have to have intercom, all that- when they decide to open them up,” Mehlbrech said. “So my guess, they’ll be a phase-in process with that because they cost so much to do [move and set up]. They’ll do two for next year, and then the year after that they might do two more, and the year after that they might do two more.”
While it is expected that our school’s population will continue to grow in the future, as of right now, our campus is acting much like an overflow facility for these portables until a bond is proposed that affects Johnson directly.
“Primarily one of the main goals of the recent bonds anyway is to reduce the number of portables. So to do that, you have to build and add on, or re-build, schools. Like Garner, Eisenhower, some of the older ones. Well, the portables then are no longer needed there. It’s like an overflow. And so now they need to find a place that, as they’re thinking down the line, where would they [portables] best be utilized knowing that they’ll be there for a while?,” Mehlbrech said.
And unless a bond is proposed within the next five to 10 years, according to Mehlbrech, that would affect the layout of the campus, these portables will be just another addition to the school for now, along with the new restroom/concession facility that was just added.
“Because, obviously, if we do expand- they wanna come out and add more classrooms- the assumption is that they would put them where the student parking lot is and the F wing. That big grassy area there. That’s where they will push it out and make another wing. So again, you’re trying to avoid taking parking places, and you’re trying to find a fairly level ground, and that’s really all they’ve got,” Mehlbrech said.
However, while plans are subject to change, six portables will definitely be added to the campus over the summer.
“I mean, I don’t like portables all that much, but if you have to get them, we’ll utilize them in the best [way] we possibly can. Now this is what has been proposed and at this time, as of May 20 at one o’clock, that’s where the plan is for next year. Obviously things can change between now and then,” Mehlbrech said. “But for sure you can guarantee, almost, 98.5%, that two of them will be sitting there and operational by August, at the start of next school year.”