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Kindergarten to get portable classrooms

October 02, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to spend $2.9 million to add portable classrooms over five years to the county's elementary schools as part of a federal mandate for all-day kindergarten.

As part of an Elementary School Space Needs Study and the Schools Comprehensive Maintenance Plan, Dennis McGee, director of facilities, suggested during a School Board work session that the addition of portable classrooms was the best option for accommodating the projected 750 students that will be in all-day kindergarten next year.

The 29 portable classrooms, costing $100,000 each, will be phased in at five of the county's 25 elementary schools beginning next summer, said McGee.

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The plan, dependent on state and county funding, would add six portable classrooms a year through the 2008 fiscal year, he said.

Bester, Hancock, Fountaindale, Lincolnshire and Winter Street elementary schools are expected to get portable classrooms first, based partially on the higher percentage of free and reduced meals provided to students at the schools with Title I status, said school system spokeswoman Carol Mowen.

"Those schools are the first in the rollout plan to get all-day kindergarten," said JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director of elementary education.

McGee said the school systems had looked into adding permanent classrooms at all the schools, but due to state regulations that require items like sprinkler systems and air-conditioning for additions, the portables seemed like the best option.

"I hate wasting the money on purchasing the portables," School Board member Doris J. Nipps said in the work session.

She said portables don't last forever, get run-down after a while and force children to walk in all types of weather conditions to go to the restroom or library.

McGee said older students will more than likely be placed in the portable classrooms.

The state Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act states every elementary school in Maryland will transition from half-day kindergarten to full-day kindergarten by the 2007-2008 school year. It follows the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which raises the bar for all students.

The schools' cost of hiring teachers to staff the all-day kindergarten program has not been determined, said Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent of schools.

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