School district grapples with portables vs. real buildings |

School district grapples with portables vs. real buildings

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Photo demonstration by Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Jose Quiroz, 9, Victor Quispe, 9, and Estevan Arce, 9, fourth-graders at Empire Elementary School, exit portables Wednesday afternoon. The school district's master plan committee is discussing whether to replace the 15,000 square feet of portable buildings at the school with brick-and-mortar buildings which cost less to maintain.

Portable buildings cost the school district about $6 per square foot to maintain annually, compared with $3.50 per square foot for actual brick and mortar, according to Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the Carson City School District.

Portables also have a lifespan of 20 years compared with 60 years for a building.

One of the main tasks of the district’s master plan committee, which met for the first time Wednesday, will be to determine whether buildings should be constructed to replace the 75,000 square feet of portable space in use now.

The largest chunk, some 25,000 square feet, is at Carson Middle School, where it is divided among three large structures.

“(Principal Sam) Santillo has a second campus over there,” said Joanna Wilson, master plan committee member and school board trustee. “He has a brick-and-mortar campus, and in back, he has a portable campus.”

Empire Elementary School is next, with approximately 15,000 square feet in eight portables. All-day kindergarten, which will be implemented at Empire in the 2006-07 school year, will require more space for additional portables and the district is applying for funding for those structures now. They must be up before the end of the school year.

The state will fund up to $165,000 per building and the new portables could take up to 4,000 square feet on the campus, space which is equal to 10,000 square feet in actual building.

Portables use more space because they need to be set back a certain distance from the school, according to Mitchell. A new building can be connected to the existing structure.

“In our particular circumstances at Empire, we do think we can fit, but it’s going to require us to take out part of our bus lanes and part of our playground,” Mitchell said.

Empire, in a high-density area, is serving 577 students, but was built for 480. Mark Twain Elementary School, the third-largest user of portables in the district, has about 7,000 square feet of temporary space.

To help committee members understand the type of growth expected in the city in upcoming years, Carson City Principal Planner Lee Plemel outlined several proposed developments such as Silver Oak, Heritage Park and Tuscarora Village and the expected number of dwellings in each.

“This is more (residential space) than we’ve had in the past few years as far as what’s in the pipeline and what’s coming forward,” Plemel said.

The committee, made up of city and school officials as well as community leaders and parents, will develop a plan based on growth expectations, revenue, needed buildings and maintenance. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for Nov. 2, 16 and 30 and Dec. 14. A plan should be complete by late January.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.