Portable Classrooms: Selection And Usage

School district facility planning is a difficult undertaking. Even the best-laid plans can be undermined by many different situational factors, including unexpected renovation needs, sudden enrollment spurts, needs for special students or requirements for lower ratios of students to teachers. When the time has come for overcrowding at the school to finally be addressed, most administrators turn to portable classrooms as a temporary solution. Here are some issues and ideas for schools to consider regarding portable classroom selection.

Implementation Speed

Most of the time, relocatable classrooms can be put into place in a matter of weeks or even days, instead of years or months. They have great flexibility to be changed, added onto, withdrawn or relocated to a different place to allow for changing requirements in enrollment. Many suppliers, such as Derksen portable buildings, offer on-site delivery and flexible payment or rental terms.

Square Footage Needs

Your school district’s teacher/student ratio guidelines will determine the specific needs for your classroom square footage. Of course, private schools usually have a lower ratio and require additional square footage. A basic guideline for most schools to follow is 640 sq. ft (60 sq. m.) for every 20 students. Portable units are available in single, double or triple-wide sizes that allow different configurations that meet most schools’ requirements. You should remember that additional space might be required for laboratory facilities, restrooms, office space or other needs that can be satisfied by portable units.

Ancillary Benefits

Oftentimes a school will reap an unexpected reward by moving classes into relocatable units. Because space is freed up in the main school building, opportunities may arise to construct new facilities such as a science lab or music room. Portable classrooms provide an opportunity to improve overall school facilities, in addition to relieving overcrowding.

Building Location

One option to consider is to install the temporary classrooms right in front of the original main building, with a covered walkway to connect them to the permanent structure. This makes efficient use of existing space and gives the impression that the temp classrooms are a real part of the school, not just an afterthought. Many administrators also subscribe to the philosophy that temporary classrooms should be up front and “in-your-face” so that they serve as a constant reminder to the public, thereby encouraging passage of the next school referendum.


Because portable buildings are so flexible, you should take advantage of their versatility to match their appearance to your school’s needs. Especially with private schools that need to maintain a certain image, there are certain architectural details you can employ to unify with the permanent school building, such as:

Matching colors to blend with a permanent structure.
Exterior finishes, such as cement plaster.
Exterior lighting, such as lampposts or decorative lanterns.
Covered walkways provide a strong physical and emotional link.
Landscaping with trees, shrubs and flowers.

Portable classrooms have the advantages of quick installation time, overcrowding relief, and flexibility of location and image. Using portable buildings as temporary classrooms can solve many different problems facing school districts today.