Southwest to Install Modular Classrooms
at Crosby Elementary and Harrison Junior
Space Crunch is So Severe that Closets, Hallways
and a Cafeteria Are Being Used for Instruction
Because of rapid housing construction, enrollment at Crosby Elementary and Harrison Junior schools is soaring beyond what had been projected just a few years ago.
To deal with the overcrowding, Southwest Local School District will be leasing modular classrooms for use at both schools.
The Board of Education approved the project at its January 10 meeting. The classrooms will be installed in time for students and teachers to begin using them in fall 2017. The public was able to ask questions and make comments about the proposal during the Board meeting.
“We’re thrilled that so many people agree with us that the Harrison area is an attractive place to raise a family. But it’s putting a great strain on the school district,” said Jeff Biddle. “We cannot control housing growth but we can continue to offer a high-quality education for all students. That’s why we’re making plans to provide additional instructional space.”
Crosby’s enrollment has soared from 324 students just two years ago to 402 this year. Projections would put enrollment at more than 445 students in fall 2017, a nearly 40 percent increase. Crosby is so crowded that four teachers share one classroom on a given day.
Harrison Junior’s enrollment has grown from 829 two years ago to 906 this year. Projections would put enrollment there at about 980 students in fall 2017, an 18 percent increase over that stretch.
At Harrison Junior, small group instruction is being held in hallways and closets. Classes are being held in the cafeteria. In addition, the neighboring Harrison High School is being used for six Harrison Junior classes.
Average class sizes at both schools significantly exceed the average class size for public schools across Ohio, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Crosby, for example, has classes with 35 students compared to Ohio’s average for elementary school classes of 23 students.
“We urgently need to deal with this dramatic increase in enrollment,” said Superintendent John C. Hamstra. “After exploring multiple options, we see modular classrooms as the best short-term solution for our students.”
For decades, modular classrooms – also known as portable classrooms -- have been used at U.S. schools and colleges to provide temporary classroom space when enrollments surge. “These modular classrooms are well-built, sturdy, air conditioned and comfortable,” Hamstra said. “On the inside, they look like typical classrooms.”
The modular classrooms are so appealing that some teachers have already offered to teach in them.
Installation of six modular classrooms at Harrison Junior and four at Crosby Elementary will average $130,000 per year. The lease will run for four years. The lease option allows Southwest to temporarily solve its space issues until a more permanent solution is identified, as well as place any maintenance of the modular units on the leasing company.
At A Glance:
Information about Southwest Overcrowding and Modular Classrooms
Crosby has classes with as many as 35 students. Ohio’s average for elementary school classes is 21.3 students. Four additional teachers are projected to be needed at Crosby in fall 2017.
Harrison Junior has classes with as many as 35 students. Ohio’s average for middle school classes is 25.6 students. As many as two additional teachers are projected to be needed at Harrison Junior in fall 2017.
Modular classrooms can be temporarily installed at schools and colleges to quickly provide additional space. They are designed so they can be removed once they are no longer needed. The modular classrooms for Crosby and Harrison Junior are expected to be about 648 square feet, larger than the average existing classrooms at both schools.
Estimated Annual Costs For Modular Classrooms:
Harrison Junior: $87,000
Costs include monthly leases, transporting the classrooms, installation, ramps, decking, utilities, engineering, permits, public address systems, fire protection systems and insurance. Cost variables include whether Crosby’s sewage filtration system can handle increased use, how to extend Crosby’s fire alarm system and more.
Estimated Installation Timeline
Jan. 2017: Board of Education votes on modular classrooms; contract signed with distributor
Feb. 2017: Engineering drawings and plans are prepared.
March/April 2017: Applications submitted for building permits.
April/May 2017: Sites for modular classrooms are prepared.
May/June 2017: Modular classrooms are transported to sites and installed; utilities are connected; inspections are conducted.
July 2017: Entrances and exits are built or installed.
Aug. 2017: Furniture and other materials are delivered; teachers prepare their classrooms; school begins.
How Overcrowding Affects Learning In Two Southwest Schools
Harrison Junior School
Teacher, Language Arts
“Instruction and learning opportunities are greatly hindered by the lack of space in my classroom. And as my class size grows, available space is shrinking even more. There is a corner of my room that I am unable to access smoothly without asking students to shift their desks, which causes disruptions. As I monitor student progress, I have to walk sideways through the aisles and climb over students’ materials. We have no space for storage of materials, equipment, small group instruction and many other essential elements for instruction.”
Teacher, Language Arts
“It's difficult for students to use computers in my classroom. The computers take up all the table space, so students have no place to put their materials. There's no room between tables to even set materials on the floor. It's also a pain for students to have to scoot in every time I walk by because there isn't enough room to walk between tables. Students sharpening their pencils, getting a tissue, or throwing away trash gets distracting to all students they have to walk past. Getting to classes is tough because there’s not enough room in the hallways. They are frequently getting pushed, bumped, run into. Special accommodations have to be made for students who need crutches or wheelchairs. They cannot fit in the classroom without blocking the door.”
Crosby Elementary School
Math and Science Teacher, Fifth Grade
“I often arrange for students to work in groups. But it is difficult to effectively organize 33 students and their desks in a small classroom space. So I often ask a couple of student groups to work on the hallway floor. At times, that isn't practical because there isn’t space in the hallway either with other teachers sending their students to work in the hallway too.
* We once had tables in the hallway for added work space, but the fire department told us remove them for safety.
* I like to change my room configuration from time to time to keep things fresh. But I am limited because there are so many student desks.
* The more students, the longer it takes for bathroom breaks and transitions.
* We don’t have space to move a student to take a test apart from other students if that student needs a distraction-free environment.”
Intervention Specialist, Second Grade;
Classroom Aide, Kindergarten
“Dealing with our limited amount of space can be very difficult when trying to find a quiet area for students to read and concentrate. At times, we spend at least five minutes, if not more, trying to find a room or spot to use. Typically, we use the pantry room or teachers’ lounge for kindergarten intervention. Sometimes we have to sit on the gym floor, even sharing it with others, and use clipboards to hold our instructional materials. Due to the lack of space, we have to be flexible. We sometimes need to change how a lesson will be taught or what will be taught because resources are limited. For second-grade intervention, we use the cafeteria for the 19 students in my group. This is difficult at times because we don't have access to a wipe board or Elmo projector. Luckily, a small wipe board was found and we lean it against a wall while using it. Despite the overcrowding, Crosby’s staff does an amazing job of working with what we have and doing what is best for the students.”
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What You're Saying
Here are some comments from your neighbors, which were sent to the email address above. Comments are posted with the consent of the author:
I was a huge supporter of the levy as a newish parent (4 years in Harrison) and am happy to see this happen for the benefit of my child. He has had a class of 34-35 every year since 1st grade at Crosby and it has been a hard road for learning at times given the enormous class size! Please pass something to help!! Thank you!!
I really wanted the levy to pass! We have to do something! I know the teaches are in a position that prevents them from being able to give the individual attention needed. Crosby teachers have made the best of their situations! I vote yes for the modular classrooms because I know we need to do something. I just wish we could have done more.