Exam: Columbia schools work toward eliminating classroom trailers

Dec 8, 2014

For the past ten years, Columbia Public Schools has continued to see an increase in total enrollment, adding about 150 students every year. Despite this growth, the school district has tried to maintain the same class size, turning to trailers to add more classrooms. KBIA’s Kyle Norris tells us how the school district hopes to move away from this temporary fix by creating a more permanent space for growing classes.

For West Boulevard Elementary School music teacher Lindsey Tevebaugh, music is a powerful education tool. She teaches more than 300 students the importance of beat, rhythms, pitches and harmonies.

But Tevebaugh does not teach in a regular classroom. She teaches in a trailer that is not connected to the main building so students have to go outside to be able to get to music class.

“Anytime if the weather is cold, rainy or hot, or if there is any kind of variation in temperature, then that makes it complicated to get kids in and out,” Tevebaugh said.

The trailer is a good size with plenty of space. But if classes get bigger, then space becomes and issue.

“If I have 25 kids in classes in the older grades, it would be a challenge to move around with them,” she said.

Luckily for her, she said the older classes average about 20 students. But even with the big trailer, storage is still an issue.

“I have a lot of instruments that are just out,” Tevebaugh said. “I have a closet, but it doesn’t have shelves. I have a couple of portable storage units, but it would be nice to have things built in.”

The weather can also amplify the wear and tear on instruments.

“If the humidity fluctuates too much, then the piano gets way out of tune,” she said. “Some of the drums are also sensitive to heat and humidity.”

Music is not the only class in a trailer at West Boulevard. The art class, two special education classrooms, a fourth grade class and both fifth grade classes are in trailers at West Boulevard. But Lisa Turner, the home-school communicator at the school, says some teachers may actually like the trailers for teaching.

“I think it’s no different than being in the building and being in the trailer,” Turner said. “A lot of times, teachers in a trailer prefer that because they have a little more privacy and a little more one-on-one.”

The plan is that trailers at West Boulevard will not be needed much longer as construction crews are adding on to the school as part of Columbia Public School’s Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. Tevebaugh said that all classrooms, including art and her music class, will be in the main building sometime next school year.

West Boulevard is not the only school undergoing construction. Shepard Boulevard Elementary School is also expanding, and two new elementary schools are under construction. One is near Battle High School while the other is on the south side of town. CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district has tried to attain one main goal through the expansion.

“The school district has been working really hard on maintaining class sizes, which is one of the reasons why we’ve seen the addition of trailers over the last several years,” Baumstark said.

She said the district is currently using about 90 trailers, but that is down from several years ago when CPS was using 175 trailers. The district has eliminated the need for trailers at the high school and middle school level, and the district is now trying to do the same at the elementary schools.

“Historically, we’ve been growing anywhere from 100-200 students per year,” Baumstark said. “Right now we’re in the phase where we’re trying to keep up with the growth and plan for future growth.”

As the district continues to grow, classes go on at West Boulevard. But time is limited for how long music class, along with all the other classes in trailers in Columbia, will be in those trailers.