Student Safety in Portables Prompts Concern


©The Talon News | Andrew Fritz / Jaclyn Harris

Portables on the elementary school campus serve as a temporary solution for overcrowding.

Sarah Crowder, Reporter

Due to an overflow of students, Hilltop has placed six of their third-grade classes in portables outside of the building, leading to concern from parents about security.

“Our campus has reached 896 students, all under the age of nine.  All student classrooms are full and we have moved most of our pull out classes into offices,” Hilltop principal Mandi Murphy said. “We maximized options within the building last year and knew we would have to do something drastic to assure our class sizes stayed small.”

Students being separate from the main building has raised the question of security and safety, from both parents and students alike.

“Parents showed mixed emotions,” Murphy said. “Some were nervous about security, others just didn’t like their child being outside of the building.”

The school is taking steps to ensure the safety of the students in the portables, including implementing a new program known as Eagle Eyes.

“We have a parent, normally a dad, that’s out there and volunteers their time,” chief of police Paul Cairney said. “Their job is to spend time around the portables, watching them and if they see anything odd or suspicious they can give me a call and I’ll check it out. We always have someone’s eyes on it.”

(Andrew Fritz, Jaclyn Harris / The Talon News)

Teachers in the portables also have multiple ways to contact the main building at any sign of trouble.

“We have phones in our classrooms so we can call other classrooms or the office if needed,” third-grade teacher Linda Pollard said. “All teachers and staff at Hilltop carry walkie-talkies, so if some kind of assistance is needed, it is just the push of a button away.”

The precautions being taken are to keep the kids as safe as possible and put the parents’ minds at rest.

“ [The security measures are] more to give people a sense of security,” Cairney said. “We don’t think we have any threats out there. We never want to take it for granted and we want to make the parents feel a little bit safer because they are outside the normal building.”

For many of the teachers, this is not the first time teaching in portables, and they are working to make the best of the situation.

“We have had to learn what makes things work smoothly these first few weeks of school,” Pollard said. “Schedules, times, locations all have to be tweaked as we learn what works and what doesn’t, but that is really no different than any classroom at Hilltop.”

The goal is to have as little interference from the change in the student’s environment as possible.

“Teaching is so much more than the four walls around you,” Pollard said. “It’s the relationship you build with your students. It’s working with your colleagues to provide what is best for the kids. Teachers and children are very resilient and flexible, so we just take each day as it comes. If there is a problem or concern, we come up with a solution together.”