Six portable classrooms scheduled for Miller-Driscoll

Six portable classrooms will be used for one year during the renovation process at Miller-Driscoll School, a discussion at Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting revealed.
If approved, the portable classrooms will be built this summer connected to the south side of the existing building, project architect Randall Luther said, and will remain in place for approximately 12 months. Mr. Luther is a principal with Tai Soo Kim Partners.
The classrooms have been submitted for review to the commission separate from an eventual Miller-Driscoll building application because they must be completed quickly.
“We’ve been working on the project for about a year now, and we’re well into the design and development phase of the school itself, but looking forward into the schedule it is apparent if we want to get the portables on site on time” a separate application needed to be submitted, Mr. Luther said.
The design of the classrooms, which will be held in one 72-foot-by-95-foot building, provides “minimal disruption” to neighbors and encourages the maintenance of safety, security, and traffic circulation, the architect said.
“The functionality of the fire alarm and security systems will all be tied into the main building systems. It will function exactly the same as it does today,” Mr. Luther said.
Each classroom will hold 18 to 20 students, the same size of classes currently at Miller-Driscoll. Bathrooms, heat and air conditioning will also be included.
Because of the phasing of the project there will be limited interaction between students and construction staff, a Turner Construction representative said at the meeting, and all workers will be required to wear photo badges at all times.
Anyone without a photo badge will not be allowed on the premises at all, he said.
An exterior rendering for the classrooms is not available because the project architects cannot choose a vendor until the modular buildings are approved by the commission.
“Individual vendors will bid on it and submit shop drawings to confirm” they can meet the goals of the project, Mr. Luther said. “Until we get the submittal, we don’t know exactly what it will look like. We could generate some generic looking elevations but I don’t know that would be of any value.”
During the discussion, Commissioner Frank Wong raised a concern over the environmental safety of portable classrooms, saying there is precedence of communities rejecting these buildings because they cannot be tested like normal classrooms.
Mr. Luther said these concerns were taken into account by his team, which will personally inspect any portable classroom for damage before bringing them in for use, as used and new buildings will be considered.
He also said he was willing to hire an industrial engineer “prior to occupancy to do a walk-through and confirm any air samples,” and said he has experience bringing in experts during occupancy to check for environmental concerns.
Joe Fiteni, another commissioner, also worried the classrooms were being built too close to a major drainage area. Though they will be built on legs up to five feet in the air — thus allowing access to the drainage area — he wondered whether moving the classrooms 10 feet further away would be prudent.
“I understand the objective of not moving [the classrooms], but even if we move the structure 10 feet, it will not change the fact that water will flow under the structure, but by moving it 10 feet you at least get the main flow out of there,” he said.
While landscape architect Barry Blades, of Blades & Goven, agreed the structure could be moved, and some of the grades could be altered, he said that would make it a more difficult project.
Because of the issues raised by commissioners and planning staff, the commission voted to continue the public hearing on portable classrooms to Monday, March 23.
Bruce Hampson, chairman of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee, asked the commission to prepare a list of suggestions and concerns prior to the March 23 meeting so he and his staff can promptly review them and speed up the process.