Workers put the finishing touches on entrances to new portables at Mt. Slesse middle school in Chilliwack last October. The school get three more portables by this fall. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Number of portables in Chilliwack to push 100 by fall

School trustees agree to purchase five more portables for growing demand on district

There will be 99 portables in place for Chilliwack students this fall.

A decision to purchase five more portables, at a cost of $734,820, was made by the school board on Tuesday night. Three of those portables will go Mt. Slesse middle school, and two to Vedder middle. Each building costs $146,964 and the orders need to be made now to be ready for students in the fall.

Secretery-treasurer Gerry Slykhuis said while the cost is high, it’s necessary.

“I’d rather be spending it on real classrooms, but we need an assist,” he told the board.

No new portables are projected to be needed at local elementary schools, he added, because of the pressure being alleviated there from this year’s reconfiguration. Grade 6 was shuffled to middle school in September, and Grade 9 to secondary school, after a one-year consultation and planning process by the school district.

During discussions, the longevity of the portables was brought up. Portables have an expected lifespan of 20 years, but there are portables that have been cared for and kept in use in the district that date back to 1975, according to Al Van Tassel, director of facilities and transportation. Slykhuis also brought up the additional costs for maintenance of portables, which is higher than a traditional, in-school classroom.

Finally, he noted, Chilliwack has the highest ratio of students in portables in the province. There are seven portables per 1,000 students here. In Surrey, by comparison, there are five per 1,000 students.

“This is definitely impacting our budget,” he said.

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