Photo courtesy of Sydney Willich
Next to the WCHS carpool loop, wooden ramps lead students to an odd learning environment: trailers crammed together like puzzle pieces, better known as portables. These portables are detached from the actual building and are places where some students have classes. While some teachers and students will continue in the familiar classroom, others must adapt to this new learning environment.
Some students avoided returning to school in-person for the final 2020-2021 quarter due to the unpredictable, developing landscape of high school education: portables, along with WiFi shortages and the split learning layout of being both at home and in-person. However, these new classroom layouts at WCHS are not going to be a first-time experience for some students. At WCHS, two sophomores, Lily Kreindler and Sydney Willich, have both returned back to school and experienced education in portables prior to this school year.
“When I lived in Silver Spring, the elementary school I went to was primarily portables and at the holding school for Wayside [Elementary], my 5th grade classroom was a portable,” Kreindler said.
Many WCHS students have experienced portables before this year, often during elementary school. Students have mixed feelings about learning in what looks like a mobile home, but both Kreindler and Willich explained that the portables are not that bad overall.
“I am not really nervous about going back to school in the portables [because] they are just like any other classroom,” Willich said. “However there will always be safety concerns when returning in person [because of COVID].”
Portables were installed because of concerns that the school building will not accommodate the amount of students returning to in-person learning. However, some WCHS students that originally opted to go in-person decided to stay online. Now, there is plenty of extra space inside of the high school, with some kids being the only student in their class period. The portables may have been an unnecessary step because of the low return of students, but better safe than sorry.
“Portables were the best option in this case. Although outdoor learning sounds fun,” Kreindler said. “Realistically, a portable makes more sense for weather purposes, like wind or rain.”
In the portables, even through whatever weather curses the day, doors and windows usually remain open during school hours so COVID-19 particles can circulate out. The teacher leads the Zoom session, and the students log onto myMCPS. Other than that, these portables look like any other classroom, with desks scattered around and students still not paying attention to the board. While Kreindler is rather impartial to her learning location, Willich has had a different experience.
“I would rather learn in a classroom,” Willich said. “When I was in portables in elementary school, there were new issues with them almost everyday with the heating and air conditioning or sometimes moving desks would dent the floor. We once had to be moved out to the media center for a week because of how hot the portable was.”
Even though Willich’s elementary school portables were faulty, WCHS’s portables have AC and Promethean Boards. With students bringing their own Chromebooks from class to class, the location does not seem to interfere with learning.
“Portable learning is pretty easy,” Willich said. “It basically functions [like] any other classroom.”
According to students, the portables are just another place to learn. But hopefully, portables will not be needed for much longer as the Board of Education works to safely return all students in the building, and have virtual learning as an option as well. Next year, there will possibly be a sense of normalcy at WCHS, but this year, enjoy the portables.
“I don’t think going back to school in portables should make anyone feel nervous,” Kreinlder said. “They are pretty similar to a classroom- just outside.”