A Southern Swamp Rat in the High Desert

Moved 2,600 miles from Florida to Idaho and talk about differences! It's almost a whole other country! I will discuss our move and the differences between the Deep South and the Northwestern High Desert as only a Southern-Bred Swamp Rat can. Check out my new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/idahoswamprat. My updates are irratic, but they are fairly regular. Stay tuned!

I taught school in Florida for over twenty years, and one thing that appears to be integral in pretty much every public school throughout the state is classroom portables.  Classroom portables are essentially single or double wide trailers or modules set up for classroom use.  I was assigned to one during my preinternship back in the ‘80’s and have taught in at least two separate portables for a period of over six years.  They come fully equipped with every convenience a modern classroom has, but, of course, they have both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages: they can be moved to suit the needs of a particular school.  This is great if a school is experiencing a rapidly changing student population. They also have the distinct advantage that the teacher can open it regardless of whether the school is locked tight, and you’re in your own little world to some degree.  You can play music and the kids can be as loud as they want and it’s not going to bother anybody. Schools which have portables that they deem “permanent” often build sidewalks and overhangs to accompany them.  Of course, they are also loaded with disadvantages.  Many of them have window air conditioning units which can be quite loud, they take forever to heat and cool and are not very energy efficient, and they can be broken in to much easier than a regular classroom within the confines of a school building.  Despite that, portable classrooms are everywhere in Florida.  The last school in which I worked had more than 25 portables at one point when our population was booming and I believe it still has over 10 now.  There’s an alternative school in Clay County, Florida called Bannerman which the entire school consists of portables, my son and daughter spent the last two years of elementary school solely in classroom portables, and a brand-new school not far from where I lived already had portable set up outside prior to opening their doors. Why?  I don’t know.  The only thing I can think of is that the school was not thought out well in the planning stages and already needed additional classrooms before it even opened!  One thing that could have contributed to Florida’s use of portables is the class size amendment that was passed in 2002, but that is a subject for another discussion.


                                     Classroom Portables - Florida Style

Since being in Idaho, something struck me as unusual about the schools but I just couldn’t put my finger on it for the longest time.  Something just didn’t seem right about them.  Then it occured to me: absolutely NO portables in sight!  They appear to plan out new schools with plenty of room.  Columbia High School, built in 2006, is still close to half empty even though the area is experiencing rapid population growth.  Why the difference?  The only thing that comes to mind is the weather.  Very cold temperatures and the inefficiency of heating and cooling portables may make them impractical here.  Don’t know if that’s truely why, but that’s my guess.  The only portables I’ve seen since being here are several that are used as a police substation in Nampa.

6 months ago