Thursday, March 30, 2023

Polson Schools: The trouble with mods

by Katrina Venters, Polson High School
| March 16, 2023 12:00 AM

In case you hadn’t heard, residents of the Polson High School and Elementary School Districts will have the opportunity to vote in an election on school bonds this spring, and the Polson School Improvement Committee wants to make sure you have plenty of information before you vote.

I’m Katrina Venters, a Polson community member and high school teacher who has lived here since 2010, and I’m here to tell you about the modular buildings – structures that are separated from the main building and either built on campus or rented and moved there – currently used at Polson elementary schools and high school. These mods, designed to work as a temporary solution to inadequate space, present both safety and sustainability concerns.

There are three modular buildings in the elementary district: Cherry Valley has one 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. 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.

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. 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.

Polson High School has seven mods, housing nine classrooms outside the main building, and 20% of the high school’s students receive educational services in these unsecured buildings. These mods pose a significantly higher security risk than those at the elementary level.

Why is this? Well, because there are seven of them and because high school students move more independently around campus. Teachers do not escort students between mods and the main building, leaving two unsupervised points of entry in addition to the main entryway.

The industry security standard at schools promotes one secure entryway. Right now, anyone can enter the high school at several different points around the building. Furthermore, the mods themselves aren’t exactly secure. In one of the new mods just rented at the start of the school year, the door handle has broken at least three times, limiting student mobility in and out of the mod and inconveniencing the teacher, class and custodians.

Most mods have doors that are difficult to secure, so teachers just hope for the best in the event we would actually need to lock out any threats. However, if we had enough room for all our students to have adequate learning spaces under the same roof, we could eliminate these threats to our teachers’ and students’ safety.

Expanding our buildings – both at the elementary and high school – would create other benefits as well. For one, we could meet the basic needs of our staff better. Teachers in mods must make strategic plans to use the bathroom, as it takes over half of a passing period just to get to the bathroom and back from a mod, much less use the facilities. It also saves money since our district now pays over $85,000 every year for mods. Adding on to the main buildings would reduce these problems and allow for better classroom environments that can help our students gain more skills they need to become assets for our community.

You’ll learn more about the vision we have to bring our schools up to 21st century standards in coming weeks.

Recent Headlines