Overcrowding forces many students into portable classrooms - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Overcrowding forces many students into portable classrooms

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Portable classrooms are the latest thing to paint the landscape near schools in both the Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City districts.

The area is growing so fast, portable classrooms seem to be the best temporary solution to house the overflow of students.

"About half our schools are at capacity or near capacity," said James Evans, who is with Rutherford County Schools.

However, the overcrowding has some people concerned about students being in the portable buildings during severe weather.

"This particular area of town just grew faster than we could build another school building," said Lisa Trail, who is with Murfreesboro City Schools. "There was no other option. Scales [Elementary School] was at maximum capacity, but we still have students coming."

For the first time in recent years, Murfreesboro City Schools added portables to two of its elementary schools.

"Our administration and school board truly believe portables are a temporary fix and not a long-term fix," Trail said.

The problem is even worse in the Rutherford County School District, where there are 154 portables at 24 of the district's 46 schools, including 19 portables at Riverdale, 14 at Eagleville and 11 at La Vergne High to name a few.

"It's one of those things that we don't like," Evans said. "Our school board has said they want to get out of the portable business and build schools, but we are growing so quickly in such a widespread area that portables are one of those necessary evils."

Some residents say the portable classrooms raise safety concerns.

"Students have to be in portables, [but] it's better to know that they are all inside the school," said Murfreesboro resident Sheila Conquest.

Classes were not in session when a deadly tornado hit Murfreesboro on Good Friday in 2009, but leaders with both the city and county schools say they have a plan in place for severe weather.

"If it is a tornado warning and tornado watch, they will go inside," Trail said.

"Brick and mortar are going to be the safest environment for a child to be in, especially when you deal with weather. We do have plans in place that we use when the weather is approaching. We bring kids in outbuildings into the main building," Evans said.

Conquest said until more school buildings are constructed, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better.

"It's hard for the city and county to accommodate that many students, so we do have that problem," she said.

Murfreesboro City Schools is currently looking for land to build a new elementary school on the west side of the city, and Rutherford County Schools has a five-year plan to build three new schools in an effort to relieve overcrowding and do away with several portables.

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