Bonds and portables: Food for thought | Opinion

When it comes to portable classrooms, the numbers get really interesting.

Snoqualmie Valley Schools are home to 59 of the mobile classrooms. They hold two school building’s worth of students. Elementary schools alone account for 31 portables.

Today, Valley schools have between a fifth to a quarter of classroom capacity in portables.

Since older students change classrooms several times a day, that means a lot of kids walk into a mobile classroom at least once a day.

The last school bond the Upper Valley passed was 10 years ago. The $53 million bond built Twin Falls Middle School. That school opened its doors in 2008.

The only construction measure that Valley voters passed in the decade since was for portables—a $27 million measure in 2009 that was focused on tearing up the old tennis courts and oaks at Mount Si and adding a block of portables, accessible by a metal deck and ramp.

When the Twin Falls bond passed back in 2003, the city of Snoqualmie’s population was around 4,800 people, less than half of today. North Bend’s population was about the same, 4,600.

Property values have since peaked, in 2009, then fallen. The Snoqualmie district actually reduced its taxes at the crest of the recession, one of two school systems to do so in King County.

With the change in education facilities in this district, more portables are coming. The district ordered seven units, 14 classrooms in all, this winter, and they’re being installed as we speak.

What’s interesting is that teachers and students don’t seem to mind using them. After all, more classrooms are better than none, so these structures aren’t perceived all that poorly. That seems to mesh with the district staff’s finding that the mere use of portables do not appear to impact learning.

But, big picture-wise, portables are a bandage—a way to bridge the gap between increased enrollment and real brick-and-mortar buildings.

They don’t solve underlying issues—too many kids, not enough school buildings, cafeterias, commons, libraries, and other core areas.

How many more years must elapse before Valley voters can unite behind a bond that puts Valley students in new, ‘real’ classrooms? Ones that don’t come on wheels.


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