Problematic Portable

Garfield fights against the district’s Portable Plan.

Portables rarely cause controversy or fury. As a result, the district probably didn’t expect a rebellion when they announced that Garfield would get additional portables for the 2018-19 school year to accommodate the school’s growing population. Whatever their expectations, the District surely underestimated Ms. Hungate-Hawk, Garfield’s Fine Arts teacher and District Coordinator, who for the last six months has fiercely fought the district’s portable plan.
When Hungate-Hawk first heard the plan she was shocked.
“I can’t say what I actually thought, but I said ‘you’re kidding me,’” Hungate-Hawk said.
But Hungate-Hawk got to work immediately, and figured out how to explain. She drafted a petition to remove the hypothetical portables, and with the approval of GHS’ staff and PTSA, she sent it to the district.
The petition argued that the new portables are impractical and possibly dangerous. Students in these new portables would be fully out of view of the main building, putting them out of reach of Garfield security in the instance of an emergency.
Less life-threatening, but similarly concerning, is the bathroom situation. When the bathroom is just down the hall, bathroom breaks are short and don’t interrupt the class, but when the bathroom is half a block away, the breaks become longer and more disruptive. Hungate-Hawk is also concerned that the long walk from the portables to the building will be impossible with current passing periods.
“If you’re giving them five minutes, there’s simply no way they’re gonna get to their next
class on time,” said Hungate-Hawk.
More worrying for Hungate-Hawk than the portables themselves is what they signify: an ever growing Garfield population. Garfield was built for a maximum of 1600 students. Today it has 1714.
But however bad Garfield’s overcrowding issue is currently, it’s about to get much worse. According to district estimates, Garfield’s population will balloon to over 1900 students next year, putting Garfield over its maximum by 300. The district hopes that adding the portables will allow these extra kids to fit into the school, but Hungate-Hawk is far less optimistic.
“If we increase the student body to over 2000 then the halls will get even more crowded.” said Hawk. “I think it ups the level of stress for the building as a unit and for the people in it. It means that our counselors, our administrators, our security, are all burdened even further. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to support this.”
These worries are exacerbated by the fact that, according to Hungate-Hawk, the district will continue to fund the school as if it had 1600 students, supplying Garfield with not one extra security officer or administrator for the 300 extra kids.
For Hungate-Hawk, and other members of the Garfield community, these portables are then merely a symptom of an overcrowded school. To address that issue, Hungate-Hawk advocates for restructuring the district so that fewer kids are in Garfield’s zone. In doing so, Garfield’s population would decrease, and under-enrolled schools like Rainier Beach and Franklin would achieve the ideal amount of students.
To save Garfield from becoming over-enrolled, Hungate-Hawk hopes students will speak out on this issue.
“I think students have an extraordinarily powerful voice.” said Hungate-Hawk. “You are actually the clients of the district, so the more you step in and say, “This school is getting too big and this is why, and this is how it impacts us,’ then the more likely the people at district will hear you and decide to make a change.”