Four years ago, school officials destroyed a dozen portable classrooms at San Diego High School to make way for a new two-story building that would ease overcrowding on the congested campus. Now officials are spending $1.47 million in Proposition S bond money to buy 10 new portable buildings for the same campus.

San Diego High’s revolving door of portables bought and destroyed with public money in only a few years’ time show how even well-intentioned policies can end up costing local districts and taxpayers.

The district used more than $3 million of state money to help finance the $6.5 million new facility and demolition of the old portables, and there were strings attached.

A total of 17 portables were removed from San Diego High School when the district built a new 12,868-square-foot, 16 classroom-building in summer 2011. Just five of those modular buildings are still standing today at other schools.

One old portable in disrepair was demolished, along with 11 others once located where the new building now stands on the southeast corner of the campus, district officials said.

Under state law, portables replaced with classroom buildings with the help of state overcrowding relief funds must be removed from the school site and all K-12 classroom use. After removal, the portables can only be used for things like storage, preschool or adult education at less dense schools ineligible for overcrowded relief funds.

The idea is to gain open space at crowded schools by getting rid of the portables.

But if the district still had the functioning portables it destroyed not so long ago, it likely wouldn’t need to cough up another million local bond dollars now for new ones.

Still, District Spokeswoman Cynthia Reed-Porter said getting rid of the old portables was the right move.

Even though they’re designed to be mobile, she said the old portables wouldn’t have fared well in a move because they would have needed upgrades to comply with state laws.

“It would have been more costly to move them, renovate and repair them,” Reed-Porter said.

The same company that won the bid to destroy the old portables and build the two-story classroom building, San Diego-based Soltek Pacific Construction Company, also won the April 14 contract for the 10 new portables. Most will be used as classroom space until more upgrades to the school are complete in September 2018.

Reed-Porter said the new portables will be better designed to sustain a move and will be sent to other schools later on.

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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