School Facilities Update (a/k/a “Do the Math”)


I asked Kathryn Reith for more details about Temporary (portables) vs. permanent classrooms in the District.  I focused on the difference in permitting / approval between the two structures.

She reported that according to Forrest Miller, Director of Support Services “the process for getting a permit for an addition to a school and for getting a portable is exactly the same. A portable is considered a building and is subject to all the requirements of a building based on its size and its occupancy. The process starts with the determination of whether the project has a significant impact on the environment according to the State Environmental Protection Act, moves on to procuring a land-use (“conditional use”) permit and then a building permit.”

Currently within LWSD there are 128 portable classrooms (some are single units; others are double classroom units).

Page 21 of the Capital Facility plan lists “Calculations for Capacities for Elementary, Middle and High Schools”.  Please note that capacities are calculated at 23 students per classroom; when the average is much closer to 30 per classroom.

This page also shows the location and counts of all current portables in the District; 80 in the Elementary levels, 30 in Middle level and        18 at the Senior High level.

Page 34 of the CFP shows Six Year Enrollment Projections for 2013 through 2019 in LWSD.

Page 36 shows Inventory and Capacity of Existing Schools.

Page 37 lists “Inventory of Undeveloped Land” (Map on page 38)

Page 40 lists a 6 year finance plan.

When I asked about temporary classroom approval processes; she also reported that the District is moving towards all “Green” buildings.

“This time, the plan is to use “green” portables that are more durable, have lower energy consumption and more windows. They are more expensive than conventional portables, costing about $12.7 million to add 28 classrooms. That is still considerably cheaper than a permanent addition.”

~ ($12.7 million/28 classrooms = $453,571.43 per classroom) ~

In July 2013, I had an email conversation with Ms. Reith regarding the difference in construction costs between the temporary classroom additions and the permanent building (“B” Wing) at Redmond High School (RHS).  Her answer via email is below:


Here is what I have been able to find out. One of the portables is actually destined for Redmond Middle School, which needs additional space. The two portables for Redmond High are for specific special education needs. They will not be used for regular classes.

 With regard to classroom cost, here’s the answer:

  • Per permanent classroom cost (this is for the addition) = $728,484
  • Per portable classroom cost = $190,000 *Single Classroom*


Let me know if you have any additional questions.


Kathryn Reith, APR

~ (at this date, there are 4 portables at RHS; at least one of the portables is used for language classes; which is not considered “Special Education”) ~

“Green Classroom” vs. traditional temporary classroom is 1.19% difference ($453,500 / $380,000 = 1.1934)

If we take $728,500 (cost of “B” Wing at RHS in 2012) times that 1.19% increase, the cost for the “B” wing (assuming that inflation/costs increases are similar in that 3 year time period) in 2015 dollars would be approximately $869,407 to construct.

For ease in calculations, let’s say a Temporary ‘green’ classroom costs $500k; and a replica of the “B” Wing at RHS would cost $1M in 2015 dollars.  “B” Wing provides 12-14 classrooms plus restrooms, while a temporary classroom only provides one classroom (no restrooms).

For the $12.7 million quoted for 28 temporary classrooms, the district could build 12 replica/similar “B” Wing structures (144 classrooms at 12 classrooms/structure).

Student capacities for 28 temporary classrooms would be 644 – 840 students vs. 12 “B” Wing Structures capacities of 3,312 – 4,320 students (23-30 student average/classroom).

According to a LWSD September 25, 2014 release,

To ensure enough classrooms overall, district staff analyzed five options to address short-term capacity needs, including:

  1. Changing the Capital Facility Plan standard of service temporarily
  2. Making interior building modifications
  3. Adding portable classrooms, either traditional or “green”*
  4. Constructing permanent additions
  5. Leasing commercial space

After analyzing the needs and costs, district staff developed a plan that included a combination of the first four options. Leasing commercial space was found to be too costly after the expense of interior space renovations for school use were factored in.

Plan details

  1. The Capital Facility Plan standard of having separate art / science rooms and computer rooms in modernized elementary schools is temporarily suspended as needed. Those rooms are already being used as regular classrooms in some schools. Adds 18 classrooms No monetary – cost.

  2. Building modifications at Juanita High School and Evergreen Middle School to provide teacher planning spaces. When middle and high school teachers plan in rooms other than their classroom, it frees up their classrooms during their planning period for another class. This increase in classroom utilization will provide the equivalent of 17 classrooms. Cost: $1 million.

  3. Add “green” portables to Audubon Elementary (1 portable), Franklin Elementary (1), Rush Elementary (3), Alcott Elementary (4), Redmond Elementary (4), Redmond Middle School (1), Evergreen Middle School (4), and Lake Washington High School (10). Adds 28 classrooms.Cost: $12.7 million.

  4. Construct permanent addition to Redmond Elementary School of six classrooms, restrooms and a shared instructional space. Adds six classrooms.Cost: $6.3 million.

The district’s Board of Directors reviewed this plan at its September 8 study session. The plan adds 69 classrooms at a cost of $20 million.

Redistributing enrollment by changing school boundaries
The district announced last spring that a boundary process would take place this fall so that all classroom space in the district could be used to house its growing enrollment. Now that a plan to add classroom space has been determined, the boundary process is the next step to distribute student enrollment accordingly.

This short-term plan will enable the district to accommodate student enrollment growth through the 2017-18 school year. The district is also engaging in a long-term facilities planning process to determine how it will accommodate enrollment growth and management of facility needs for 2018-19 and beyond. 


The Long-Term Facilities Planning Working Subcommittee reported on February 5, 2015:

Long Term Facilities Planning challenges: (Page 6)

  • Lack of Classroom Capacity
  • Aging Facilities (Building Condition, Current Educational Expectations)

Some of the ideas discussed to alleviate the challenges: (Pages 7 & 9)

  • Build “a” new additional school building
  • Replacement vs. modernization of existing school
  • Update & make improvements to heating, roofs, etc. of existing structures
  • Site portables to provide additional classrooms
  • Use Old Redmond School House
  • Buy or Rent spaces from adjacent districts
  • Year-round, late-start, half days or ‘shifts’ of students
  • Virtual classes from home

I’m not convinced that the District or the facilities planning committee are really looking towards the long-term issues of our capacity challenges.  I’m also concerned that currently available funds (leftover from previously approved bonds) are being used for short-term fixes.

Continuing to build temporary classrooms that have limited uses and life-spans instead of permanent structures with more durable functions seems to replicate the existing challenges we have and continuing them on for future committees to deal with.


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