Tracking the Trailers ...

"We shouldn't have people teaching in trailers.  We shouldn't have kids learning in trailers -- they should have classrooms with internet AND science labs."
~ U.S. President Barack Obama
The University of Richmond, 
September 9, 2011

When President Barack Obama spoke last September to a crowd of 9,000 gathered at The University of Richmond, he recounted a conversation he had with a local teacher about the many frustrations of teaching "special education" students in trailers.  He expressed his dismay that there are any children being taught "long-term" in trailers.   

His comment should have been a wake-up call to the members of the City of Richmond School Board and RPS Supt. Yvonne Brandon to at least examine the RPS use of trailers as classrooms.  

It wasn't.  

Therefore, before the RPS School Board acts on closing any schools, RPS Superintendent Yvonne Brandon and the members of "her board" need to explain:

  • Why it is that we have any children being taught in trailers, given "underutilized space" in our schools?  
  • And, why is it acceptable that a disproportionate number of "special education" students are assigned to these trailers? 

When I asked RPS officials how many trailers the school district uses and the costs associated with the "modular buildings," I was told that to obtain that information,  I would need to submit a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and pay the School Board clerk $44.55.  

When I made similar information requests of Chesterfield and Henrico County Public Schools, their public relations officers -- LeighAnn McKelway (Chesterfield) and Mychael Dickerson (Henrico) -- each responded on the same day and within hours of my initial inquiry and neither requested that I submit a FOIA request or agree to pay them for the time it took to answer my questions.

Chesterfield County Public Schools does not rent any trailers, according to McKelway, but does own 300 trailers that are used primarily to house students while schools are being built, renovated and/or to ease overcrowding.

In contrast, Henrico County Public Schools only owns 19 trailers, 11 of which are used as classrooms and the remaining for administrative offices.  Henrico, however rents 104 classroom trailers, 57 of which are being used while existing classroom space is renovated.  Dickerson stressed that the remaining 35 trailers are used to ease capacity in already crowded schools and as such are only used only on a short-term basis (less than two years).  Henrico County public schools spends $350 per month for these single classroom trailers and $690 per month for double-wide trailers.

RPS, however, which has experienced a steady decline in student enrollment and has excess capacity to spare in its schools, currently owns 13 trailers and rents 22.  While it is understandable that school districts would need to use trailers periodically for construction, renovation of existing classroom space and unforseen increases in enrollment, it makes no sense whatsoever to jam little children into these trailers.

And, what is truly confounding and makes even less sense, is why RPS continues to spend $430.22 per month to rent each single trailer and $860 per month for double-wide trailers.  Neither Felicia Cosby nor RPS Supt. Yvonne Brandon returned several telephone calls for a comment about and why RPS pays nearly $10,000 a month ($113,604.48 annually) on "modular buildings" and why RPS has done so in some cases for 20 years. See for yourself by clicking here.

Given that the installation dates for the trailers range from 1991 to 2005, it is a sure bet that the trailers are NOT being used as "alternative" space during "construction."

Answer this:  If your child, loved one or a co-worker, told you that they had been making payments on the same car for 20 years, would you have to wonder about a) their common sense; b) their judgment; c) their fundamental math skills or d) all of the above?

Originally posted 5/1/12; Revised 6/12/12