Sacramento City Unified elementary schools are seeing a mini building boom in a reversal for a district that closed seven campuses in 2013.
The school district is dramatically reducing class sizes for K-3 students this fall and expects to open 75 more classrooms by the time students return from summer vacation. Across the district, workers are relocating portable classrooms, laying new electrical lines and preparing campuses for the fall.
All K-3 classrooms in the district will average 24 students per teacher, the state’s target. That will drop from the previous averages of 29 to 32 students per class.
Only 20 new classrooms will come via renovated 960-square-foot modular buildings that were taken from school sites that closed or that no longer need the portables. Most of the 47 schools that have elementary grades will be able to add classrooms by taking advantage of existing, unused space, district officials said.
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At Crocker/Riverside Elementary in Land Park, Brenden Frechette of Sierra Building Systems climbed a ladder inside a recently relocated modular classroom to install a fire alarm system. It was the first of a number of systems the contractor was scheduled to install.
Across the room, electrician Beau Busseuil was laying basic lines for power, lighting and computers and planned to come back later to mount panels and establish connections.
At Ethel I. Baker Elementary in the Fruitridge area, workers last week poured cement for a new sidewalk.
Smaller class sizes have long been valued by parents and teachers. Teachers in smaller classes say they spend less time on discipline and more time working one-on-one with students. In the 1990s, the state spent heavily to help districts cut K-3 class sizes to 20. But class sizes swelled after the state cut school funding during the recession.
In 2013, as the state budget began to recover, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders agreed to increase school funding and encourage smaller class sizes.
Several districts in the area have begun the downshift to meet the 2020 target of 24 students per K-3 classroom. Davis Joint Unified and Folsom Cordova Unified will be in compliance this fall. Elk Grove Unified School District has already reached the target.
Sacramento City Unified renovated its wood portables with new carpeting, paint and air conditioning and had them recertified by the state Division of Architects. Workers trenched to bring power to the buildings, Dobson said.
“The facilities group looked at every little detail, including which way the doors swing,” said district spokesman Gabe Ross.
Ross said the district was also mindful of preserving campus space. “We didn’t tear down any playground structure,” he said. “We wanted to keep classrooms as close to other classrooms, not put them in the middle of a field or green space.”
Ross said the schools receiving portables need to add classroom space because they are already at capacity or have limited space for expansion. The 20 modulars have been installed at Genevieve F. Didion and Leonardo da Vinci K-8 schools, plus Crocker/Riverside, Ethel I. Baker, Matsuyama, Phoebe Hearst, Pony Express, Sutterville and William Land elementary schools.