Brody Caskin, Special to the KP News

Writer Brody Caskin is a fifth-grade student at Minter Creek Elementary School. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Minter Creek Elementary School will soon be receiving two new, prefabricated, dual-classroom portables. Each building will have an approximate area of 1,600 square feet, or about 800 square feet per classroom, similar to the size of other classrooms in the school as well as those in the school’s current portables.

Serious discussions about adding more portables started in September 2017, based in part on an increase in the number of students at the school. In addition, the Washington Class Size Reduction Measure, or Initiative 1351, recently changed the rules about class sizes in Title 1 schools such as Minter Creek. The law states that kindergarten through third-grade classrooms shall have no more than 15 to 17 students. Upper grades are capped at a few more. Although the law has since been temporarily suspended, schools throughout the state have already begun planning for its implementation.

“We’re one of two schools that are receiving portables,” said Ty Robuck, principal of Minter Creek. “Discovery Elementary is working on it. Last year, Voyager Elementary also had to get portables.” 

Peninsula School District is hoping to start installation immediately at the end of the current school year, in order to have the classrooms finished and ready to use Day One in the fall. However, the district will only be able to start when site work and building permits are complete.

Minter’s new portables will include restrooms, so when cold weather comes students won’t have to walk out in the rain and snow. “The ultimate goal is so that in the wintertime. we’re not having kids walk all that way,” Robuck said.

Patrick Gillespie, director of facilities for Peninsula School District, said installing the septic system is likely to be complicated and may cause delays. “There will be a separate septic system that will be for the portables,” Gillespie said.“It’s a gravity-fed system that will end up on the west end of the property. They’re still finalizing their site plans on that so everything is subject to change.” 

New building regulations put into place after the district’s most recent portable classrooms were installed have also made the process difficult. A new regulation requires each classroom, for example, to include a minimum of four windows. “That’s to get more natural daylight in,” Gillespie said. 

Other building features, such as electrical outlets in which one socket is only activated when motion is detected, will increase energy efficiency. While the motion-detector outlets are new for the school, motion-detection technology is not, as all classrooms have lights that turn off automatically if no motion is detected.

Many Minter Creek students have been wondering if a favorite playground tree popularly referred to as “The Big Tree” will be cut down. While nothing is final, Gillespie believes it is likely the beloved tree will have to go. “I think it would be unfair to cut down the tree, because it is a place where students love to play,” said fifth-grader Aleah VanderDoes. 

Money for the portables will come from the district. “The costs for this project will be paid for from the district’s capital projects fund,” said Vicki Smith, the district’s business services supervisor. “This fund contains money that can only be used for purchasing land or facilities and for capital improvements and construction projects. This fund is financed by the sale of bonds that have been voted on by the community. School impact fees are also deposited into this account.” 

Complications with septic and other aspects of the installation process make these the last portables Minter Creek is likely to receive. “These are much more difficult to get in than other portables and that’s really driving cost on it,” Gillespie said. “There’s a lot more site work we have to do to get these in. After this, there is a good chance we won’t put any more portables on the site, but I can never say never.”

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