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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : ANAHEIM

Influx of Students + Reduced Class Sizes = 41 New Portables

About 800 to 1,000 more are expected to attend high school and junior high this fall. About 20% of the district's classrooms will be temporary structures.

August 03, 2000|JUDY SILBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Anaheim Union High School District will add 41 portable classrooms and about the same number of teachers to accommodate an increase of 800 to 1,000 students expected in September.

The jump in enrollment isn't a new problem. The district has had to cope with yearly student increases for the past several years, plus state mandates that forced the district and others to reduce class sizes.

Trustees and administrators argued that the 240 portables, making up about 20% of their classrooms, are a reasonable solution.

"It's a challenge," Trustee Katherine H. Smith said. "The reality is that we have had to cope with the added children that have come here. The most inexpensive way is to lease these portables."

Teachers and administrators say they don't object. Unlike the older portables, the new versions have all the accouterments of regular classrooms--fire alarms, telephones, clocks and bells.

They even have air-conditioning, a luxury that's absent in some of the district's permanent classrooms.

Based on elementary school district populations and an anticipated rise in Anaheim's population because of Disney's construction of a new amusement park, the onslaught of students will continue for at least three years, said John Larner, the district's assistant superintendent of facilities management and planning.

That means more portables. Fortunately, the district has large campuses with room for temporary classrooms for the next five to seven years, Larner said.

While functional, Larner acknowledged that adding portables will take away space from athletic fields and open areas. And the increased student population will mean crowded lunch areas, cafeterias and athletic fields.

The district's eastern flank has experienced the most growth. Sycamore Junior High School, near State College Boulevard, has had the greatest jump in students. Tan portables line the campus' east and west sides, flush with the parking lot and soccer field.

To adequately accommodate its students, the school has two lunch periods. Yet this fall, six more portables will be added. Larner said the school can take more if necessary.

For now, portables are the best answer, he said. Anaheim has little undeveloped land and the district is already struggling to modernize existing schools, let alone build new ones. But on Aug. 17, the Board of Trustees will begin discussing other options. The district leases each portable for about $6,000 per year; trustees will consider the economic feasibility of building permanent structures or buying the portables.

Permanent structures last longer than portables, and could end up saving the district money, Trustee Alexandria Coronado said.

"If we built a building, it would certainly look a lot nicer than the portables," she said.

*

Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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