DeKalb board of ed questions, approves $3.1 million purchase

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DeKalb County School District makes consecutive multi-million modular classroom purchase

DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) board of education approved the third consecutive multi-million dollar purchase of portable classrooms on Feb. 13 despite skepticism from board members.

The approved $3.1 million purchase will pay Mobile Modular Management Corporation for an unstated number of single-wide and quad unit portable classrooms, some with and some without restrooms, in support of DCSD’s summer portable placement, future construction projects and to replace aged modulars, according to DCSD Chief Operations Officer Joshua Williams.

Board member Joyce Morley asked Williams how many portable classrooms the district currently has and received a non-specific response.

“I can provide you with the number, I don’t have it in front of me at this time,” Williams said. “We do have some portable classrooms that are in really bad shape that we currently stage at our Panthersville location. We are in the process of disposing of those, we do not believe they are in any condition to put back into schools. Our intent is to salvage what we can and maintain what we can.”

According to documents obtained by The Champion, the district has 29 modular classrooms in storage behind Panthersville Stadium, located at 2817 Clifton Springs Road. The document—a September 2016 Portables Inventory—states 29 portables are in “good” condition and listed as surplus. It also states 29 are in “bad” condition and listed as to be removed.

Williams said the district needs new portables to replace outdated modulars and address capacity issues for upcoming construction projects. He said the typical lifecycle of modular classrooms is approximately 15 years.

Morley asked Williams if the board has the option to lease rather than buy the temporary classrooms.

“In the past, we have leased modular trailers,” Williams said. “We believe, given the amount of work we’re going to have and the service life, it’s in our best interest to purchase them.

We’ll reuse them as we go through phases of construction projects over the next five years.”

Board member Jim McMahan requested an updated detailed inventory of modular classrooms in storage, in use and those considered surplus. He also requested a detailed list of the number of portables expected to be purchased.

Board member Marshall Orson also requested a detailed inventory to help his decision making in approving purchases.

Board member Stan Jester mentioned DCSD’s most recent Cross Keys Redistricting Plan in February 2016 reduced some portable classrooms and redistributed others.

“Several of them are currently at Panthersville in a condition that was not good enough to send to another school,” Williams said.

According to an email dated Feb. 16, Jester remains unconvinced the purchase was necessary for the district.

“In addition to storing trailers at Panthersville, I imagine there are good trailers at some schools not being used,” Jester states. “Dunwoody High is over capacity by 317 students while Cross Keys High is over by 86 students. According to the [2016 Portables Inventory] Dunwoody has four classrooms worth of trailers and Cross Keys has 15 classrooms worth of trailers. Perhaps the excess trailers at CKHS will be used as swing space during the E-SPLOST V conversion to a middle school.”

The board of education approved a similar purchase of $2.5 million in March 2016. At the time, Williams provided the board of education with details as to which schools would receive modular classrooms.

At the time, Williams stated DCSD’s overall goal is to phase out portable classrooms altogether.

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