The Conroe ISD board of trustees approved an approximately $1.3 million purchase of 70 portable buildings for the 2023-24 school year at a March 21 board meeting. Prior to the purchase item, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Chris McCord gave a presentation regarding the portable classrooms.

Before school starts in the fall, McCord said elementary campuses will add 61 of the 70 portable classrooms. As of March 6, campuses slated to receive portable buildings include 19 elementary campuses. Cox Intermediate will get two portable classrooms; Stockton Junior High will receive three; and Grand Oaks High School will receive four.

Superintendent Curtis Null said the need for portables is due to budgeting, not a lack of planning.

"There are always people who will look at this and say, 'Why didn't you plan better?'" he said during the meeting. "In the 2019 bond, we came to the bond committee with $1.8 billion worth of needs, ... and they cut it to $807 million. That was unsuccessful, so then we cut it to $654 million. We cut a lot of what would have been new buildings."

Double classroom portable buildings run $135,820 per 24-foot-by-26-foot building, according to McCord. Portable fencing, sidewalks, decks, awnings and ramps adds an additional $48,000, while furniture costs approximately $20,000, according to information at the meeting. Technology costs per classroom are estimated at $17,509, and electrical costs range from $25,000-$50,000, according to the district. The total cost for a double portable is approximately $300,000.

McCord said the cost for portable buildings is taken out of the district's maintenance and operations budget. Null said that is the part of the budget that pays for district costs of living.

"That's teacher salaries, electric bills, insurance," he said. "When we reach a point where we are taking money from that budget for portables, it's pulling money away from salaries and educational programs where it could have been spent."

Conroe ISD has a total of 196 portable buildings with 161 of those classrooms acting as single portables and 35 doubles. Double portables host 70 separate classrooms. McCord said the majority of existing portable classrooms are located on elementary school campuses. Many of the portables replace playground facilities.

"When I put portables on a playground I restrict the amount of space kids can play, which then restricts the amount of grass that grows and the amount of space for kids to run," he said.

According to a presentation given at the board meeting, the need for portable buildings grew from 24 total buildings during the 2021-22 school year to 37 buildings in 2022-23 before reaching 70 for the upcoming 2023-24 school year.

With no additional permanent buildings added, the presentation cited the total number of portable classrooms needed through the 2027-28 school year is projected to reach 436. High school campuses will need 107 buildings; junior high campuses will need 57; intermediate campuses will need 36; and elementary campuses will need 216 portable classrooms.

As of the 2022-23 school year, a previous Community Impact report stated the district is already at 102% capacity overall. To address the projected growth, the district formed a bond committee that began meeting in February.

Null said the bond committee will play a large role in deciding the future need for portable buildings.

"If the bond is called and passed, it would reduce that number [of portables], but it won't reduce the number for the next two years," he said. "Even if we passed the bond in November, we won't open a school building until 2025 and then some of the bigger schools not [until] 2027."