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Elementary mods pose safety hazards

by Katrina Venters, Polson High School
| March 9, 2023 12:00 AM

As you consider how to vote in Polson School District’s upcoming bond election, the Polson School Improvement Committee wants to make sure you have plenty of information. I’m Katrina Venters, a Polson community member and high school teacher who has lived here since 2010, and this week, I’ll focus on the modular buildings currently used by our elementary schools.

When an organization – a business, a non-profit, a family – gets too large for its space, the most logical thing to do is move to a bigger space or build an addition on the existing space. For Polson School District, we’ve had to go a different route: build or rent modular buildings that are not attached to the main buildings.

Cherry Valley has one modular building, or mod, used for computer classes and small reading groups throughout the day, while Linderman has two mods, one for music classes and one for reading and speech classes. These mods, designed to work as a temporary solution to inadequate space, present both safety and sustainability concerns.

When students go to classes in mods at the elementary level, they must exit the main building, walk to the mod regardless of weather, then return to the main building escorted by their teacher, who must use a key fob to let the students back into the building.

Being isolated from the main building leads to several safety hazards, not to mention inconveniences. If a medical emergency took place in a mod, the teacher and students don’t have quick, easy access to necessary assistance. In my career, I’ve had to call the ambulance twice, and having someone next door to me made the situation more manageable because help was there right across the hall, not down a ramp, through a locked door, and down another hallway.

It is true that we have good communication infrastructure in our mods, but pushing a button isn’t the same thing as having a real person ready to help mere seconds away. If students need to go to the bathroom while in a mod, their teacher must choose between making them wait or leaving the class unattended while walking them back into the main building.

If children need to use the bathroom, they should have easy access to necessary facilities; on the other hand, young children typically require supervision for their own well-being. Teachers shouldn’t have to choose between both students’ needs.

Mods fail to meet our district’s needs because they lack sustainability. Some mods, such as Cherry Valley’s, are permanent structures owned by the district. Others, like Linderman’s, are rented. Our district pays over $85,000 every year for mods at different schools.

Our enrollment is not decreasing, so the need for more space than our main buildings have will persist indefinitely. As a parent, I want my kids to have access to spaces they need to learn, to have good learning environments, to take music classes or get lost in a library. The bond money would allow Polson School District to bring all our students under the roof of each main building, promoting a safe, secure learning environment where our students can thrive.

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