Parents angry over plan to put Virginia Beach students in portable classrooms

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The dozens of portable classrooms proposed for Thoroughgood Elementary students will be located in a field that borders heavily-traveled Northampton Boulevard and will not be covered from the weather elements.

The portable classroom “village” is located behind nearby Hermitage Elementary School. Under the district’s plan, the students will be in the portable units during the two-year construction of a new Thoroughgood Elementary.

“I know I am growing more frustrated as the hour grows near,” said Eric Kline, a father to twin daughters who attend the school.

More than 300 people have signed an online petition against moving 700 students into 43 trailers.

Parents contacted 10 On Your Side with concerns over safety, traffic, practicing emergency plan and even using the bathroom during inclement weather.

“In today’s ever-changing climate you read about school shootings or people walking in or kidnappings,” said Kline. “By the schematics of it, there’s a lot of little areas people can get in.”

Victoria Manning, a school board member, tells WAVY.com she’s disappointed in how the district has addressed the plan.

“The public has not had a voice in this and the school board has not either,” said Manning, in a phone interview. “I’m not okay with that … I would like for us to take a step back, hold a public hearing, let the public be informed and let them have a voice.”

Anthony Arnold, executive director of facilities, says there’s no reason for parents to worry. He says VBCPS is successfully operating about 100 portable classrooms across the division this year.

“Portable classrooms have been used around this division as flexible space for growth for as long as I’ve been doing this, which is 30 years,” he said. “If we felt like there was an easier way to do it, we’d be doing that.”

Arnold says there is no vacant building to accommodate Thoroughgood students.

As for traffic concerns, he says there’s a buffer and ditches between the proposed trailer site and Northampton Boulevard.

Two security guards and extra school personnel will help in patrolling the “village.”

“We understand the concern, no doubt,” said Arnold. “I think we also underestimate the role the school teachers and the administrators and the additional security and everything that everyone will do out there to make sure that everyone is safe. I think we underestimate that.”

Manning says she’s requested a public hearing but has not gotten confirmation.

In the meantime, she says Arnold’s team will brief board members in a workshop Feb. 13.