Why Portables?

Portable, modular or relocatable classrooms -- whatever you call them -- are a necessity for schools. Students don't come in class-size packages of 25 to 30 and budgets are tight. But many portables become permanent fixtures, in place for decades at a time. Costly and insufficient, these aging structures burden the grid, frustrate teachers and administrators and compromise student health. EarthFix examines the extent of the problem, how it happened and what can be done about it.

How Is Your District Doing?

Portables make up as much as 20 percent of classrooms in some districts. Old portables are particularly problematic, experts say, but many districts have portables older than 20 years with no requirements on when they should be retired or retrofitted.


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About the data

InvestigateWest sent a survey to the 20 largest school districts in Oregon and Washington about its portable classroom use, policies and perspective. The survey asked each district how many portable classrooms it has and what percent of its total classrooms are portables. The survey also asked how many portable classrooms were newer than five years, how many were older than 20 years, and how many had been retrofitted with new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, as well as a full inventory of all portable units. All districts responded but with varying levels of detail. Numbers are estimates in some cases.


Don't see your district?

InvestigateWest and EarthFix surveyed the 20 largest districts in Oregon and Washington. Add yours to our coverage. Click the button to access our survey and send it to your district.

Envisioning A Better Portable

Several efforts are underway to create more efficient portables that offer healthier learning environments, including two prominent efforts in the Northwest. Toggle the images below to see frequent problems with old portables and best practices implemented in newer, "greener" designs.

Old Portable

Green Portable


Art: Nicole Fischer, Sources: Northwest Clean Air Agency, California Air Resources Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SAGE Classroom, SEED Collaborative

About EarthFix

EarthFix is a partnership of Oregon Public Broadcasting, Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS9, KUOW, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

About InvestigateWest

InvestigateWest is a new model for investigative journalism for on the Pacific Northwest. We are a nonprofit studio founded in 2009 to strengthen communities, engage citizens in civic life, and help set the policy agenda through powerful, independent journalism.

© 2014 EarthFix