Del Mar School District board delays decision on Ocean Air relocatable classrooms

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District board continues to look at the possibility of leasing or purchasing two relocatable classrooms for Ocean Air School to deal with a campus heavily impacted by high enrollment. Trustee Doug Rafner suggested the district look at the options to see if any money could be saved from the proposed $281,845 cost of buying a custom portable.

The board did not make a decision at its special board meeting on March 14 and may hold off on a decision until the March 28 meeting or schedule another special meeting.

While two board members said that they do not want to go the lease route, DMUSD Director of Maintenance Randy Wheaton said that it is good the board is taking the time to really look into its options to make sure the district is getting the best deal possible.

“We’ve gone above and beyond to make sure we’re really solid in our decision whether to lease versus purchase,” said trustee Comischell Rodriguez.

Wheaton researched and presented five options to the board: Leasing a standard portable; purchasing a standard portable; leasing a refurbished portable; purchasing a refurbished portable; and purchasing a custom portable.

All options would include a fixed cost of $56,000 for finishing asphalt; the Department of State Architect and inspector fees; wiring and upgraded HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Total costs ranged from $241,260 to lease a standard portable for five years to $375,345 for a custom built portable that would have cabinets, carpets and design to match the rest of the school campus.

The standard portables, whether leased or purchased, were ruled out.

The standard portables are 24 by 40 feet, very similar to the ones at Del Mar Hills and Sage Canyon, but they would take up a little more space because there would have to be 10 to 12 feet between them for HVAC units. Taking up more space would not work for Ocean Air Principal Ryan Stanley, Wheaton said.

Additionally, the standard portables also have no windows facing campus and the doors are located on the side.

Leasing wasn’t seen to be the best option because the cost comparisons were “a wash,” as Rodriguez said.

“I recommend that we don’t lease refurbished,” said Wheaton, noting there have been issues in the past with air quality and mold. “I’m just concerned about getting someone else’s problem.”

However, Rafner said that leasing, any problems would be the company’s responsibility to handle, not the district.

Architect Chuck Forte, who is helping with the Ocean Air project, said that often the more you customize a leased portable, the more the company will point fingers at the client if something goes wrong.

“To me, leasing is great if you’re doing a modernization that’s going to take a year or if you’re using it for something simple like storage or administration,” Forte said. “When you start getting into customization, if that’s what you want, it starts to get more complicated.”

DMUSD board President Scott Wooden was also concerned about leasing, as district Superintendent Jim Peabody said that portable classrooms are rarely temporary — the lease would likely last longer than five years and tack on an additional cost.

“It looks like the cost for leasing is about the same for buying,” Wooden said. “The lease cost would overtake the purchase cost if we go out after five years.”

The custom-build option remained the frontrunner option, although before making its decision, the board still wanted a few more details about refurbished units and how much a lease would cost past five years.

Wheaton said the biggest benefit of the custom-build option is that it allows the district to build the classrooms from scratch to meet all of its standards and specifications.

Torrey Hills School has relocatables built to the district’s specifications.

“They’re a far cry from a standard relocatable,” Wheaton said.