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State has 1,328 portable classrooms
School construction bond issue could significantly reduce number in use

MONTGOMERY (AP)— Alabama schools are using 1,328 portable classrooms — a figure that could be reduced significantly by a school construction bond issue pending in the Alabama Legislature.

The bond issue could eliminate many portable classrooms, but some rapidly growing school systems, such as Shelby and Baldwin counties, will always need them, state Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said Wednesday.

Morton appeared before the Legislature's budget committees Wednesday to talk about the financial status of Alabama's public schools.

He reported there were 1,328 portable classrooms being used for instruction in September and another 613 on school campuses that were either sitting empty or being used for non-instructional purposes.

Morton said the total construction needs of Alabama's city and county school systems — replacing portable classrooms, expanding schools, replacing roofs and air conditioning systems and building new schools — will total about
$4.3 billion over the next five years.

School systems have local taxes or local bond issues that should cover $2.2 billion of
that need, leaving $2.1 billion unmet, the superintendent said.

Morton and the State Board of Education are encouraging the Legislature to approve a $1 billion state bond issue for
construction projects from kindergarten through universities.

Gov. Bob Riley and the chairmen of the Legislature's education budget committees have recommended $850 million, although Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee Chairman Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said that figure will likely "inch up a little bit."

Last bond in 1998

Alabama's last school construction bond issue was $550 million in 1998-1999. At the time, Alabama had 3,472 portable classrooms, which were usually doublewide trailers. Gov. Don Siegelman and the State Board of Education required school systems to use their bond proceeds first to replace the portable classrooms with permanent facilities.

The bond issue plus other building programs cut the portables to about 500, according to a report put out by the Siegelman administration.

For the new bond issue, there is no effort by the state to mandate removing portables first. Instead, city and county school systems will be allowed to set their own priorities because now the portable classrooms are primarily in a few school systems, legislators and state officials said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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