Portable classrooms to be used next year

Isadora Groves, News Editor

To address overcrowding at Jackson-Reed High School, DCPS has decided to install six portable classrooms in the faculty parking lot. However, they will likely not have access to power and water until the end of the calendar year, making them unusable for months. 

“That is not ideal because we need them to be functional at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year,” said the chair of the Local School Advisory Team (LSAT), Melody Molinoff. Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman confirmed the timeline, stating that the best outcome is that they may possibly be ready for use by late fall. 

The proposal to install portable classrooms originally came from the LSAT, a group of parents, teachers and community members tasked with advising the Principal on matters related to the school, like overcrowding. 

Chemistry teacher and LSAT member Will Gomaa thinks that portable classrooms are a good solution for overcrowding in the near term. “It is done at other schools in the district and at thousands of other schools across the country. It is the obvious solution,” he said. 

With a carrying capacity of 1840 students, Jackson-Reed is already well over capacity with 2110 students and growing. According to Molinoff, overcrowding has led to a lack of communal and teacher devoted places, extra wear and tear on the building, crowded hallways, and the inability for the school to expand academic opportunities. 

“We have to use up every available space to meet the core class requirements. So, it’s difficult to think beyond baselines when it comes to academics,” she said. It is for these reasons that Molinoff believes that it is crucial that the portables be ready at the start of the next school year. 

Other issues with the portable classrooms include finding replacement parking spaces. With the faculty parking lot occupied by portable classrooms, the Jackson-Reed staff will need to park elsewhere. “We are looking to get permission from the DC Department of Transportation to park along Chesapeake Street,” Bargeman said. The parking rules along the street would need to be altered to accommodate teacher parking. 

While the LSAT is encouraged by the portable classrooms, they recognize that they won’t fully fix the problem of overcrowding. 

According to Bargeman, the school is also considering adding two periods to the normal every day schedule, a “zero” and ninth period, to combat overcrowding. 

“Zero period would be in the morning, prior to the regular school day. And what they call the ninth period would be after school,” he said. Although the details aren’t concrete, Bargeman explained how taking classes in these periods would be optional, and should help Jackson-Reed with overcrowding. 

And, overcrowding ultimately needs a long-term, more holistic solution. Chancellor Ferebee recently announced the opening of the MacArthur Neighborhood School as a public high school. Spanish teacher and LSAT member Isabel Vázquez explained that the MacArthur Neighborhood School would draw students from Hardy Middle School. This would eventually decrease the number of enrolled students at Jackson-Reed and may provide relief to Jackson-Reed in a few years. But, it is not going to do much in the near term. 

Gomaa shared this sentiment. “This is a completely unhelpful answer for the next school year. That building will not be open in any way shape or form,” he said. 

With portable classrooms on the horizon, the Jackson-Reed community can hope for some relief from overcrowding. But, other solutions will be needed to alleviate overcrowding in the long-term. •