Morehead Elementary portable units

Morehead Elementary School students make their way past some of the school’s 12 portable classroom units in April.

GREENSBORO — New portable classrooms should be ready for students at Morehead Elementary School by Monday.

Staff members with Guilford County Schools have been planning on moving a mobile unit, which can be used to create four classrooms, to the school since spring to help meet a state mandate to reduce the number of students in each classroom from kindergarten through third grade. They’ve known for a while that the mandate from the state legislature could potentially create issues for Morehead. Fewer students allowed per class typically means more teachers and more classes.

Originally, school officials thought they couldn’t legally squeeze any more units onto the site because of some environmental regulations. However, once they figured out they could, they located an unused quad unit already owned by the school system and started making plans to move it to Morehead.

In general, moving a mobile unit isn’t as simple as the word “mobile” might imply. Even if nothing unexpected happens, there’s a required permitting process, contracting with an outside vendor, installing footers and utilities, and so forth.

Their original target for students occupying the mobile was the end of September, a little over a month into the school year, said Scott McCully, the school system’s new chief of operations.

Then the roadblocks started popping up. First, McCully said, when workers went to move the mobile unit they discovered that it wasn’t in the shape it needed to be in for a move.

“We basically had to stop and just not move that particular mobile,” McCully said.

School officials found a second mobile unit, but that one, it turned out, needed a new roof. The fix didn’t put the project over budget, McCully said, but it did take time. Lastly, he said, they wound up having to create a berm — basically a grassy knoll — for water drainage.

While waiting for the extra classroom space, officials used such strategies as team teaching to meet the reduced class-size mandate, McCully said.

Overall, it cost the school system about $205,000 to put the mobile unit at Morehead. That’s a small fraction of the roughly $8.1 million the school system spent to meet the class-size reduction mandate for this school year.

The majority — about $7.7 million — is pay for more teachers and teacher assistants. The rest of the $8.1 million estimate is for professional development, the central office staff’s planning time and furniture.

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Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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