I teach in a portable. A “temporary structure.” The room reminds me of the
classroom in which my father taught in Wales. The paper peeling from the walls; floors sagging where it was damp or had dry rot. The bathrooms smelled awful, the sink and toiled leaked. The ceiling also leaked. I remember the local education authority visited and, after seeing the conditions, agreed to build a new school!
I often reminisce about that portable in Wales. The weather in Wales is not as nice as California. It rains a lot, and is colder. In my class at Wood however, it is difficult to appreciate the weather. As anyone working in these temporary structures knows, they get stiflingly hot in summer and you can’t get them warmed up in winter! It’s a tough decision using the air conditioner because many of my students with special needs have allergies which get aggravated by the stale dusty air blowing through the room.
This past year was especially frustrating. A hole in the floor seemed to be getting worse. It had been created by damp and rot and the floor around the hole sagged significantly. I decided it was too much of a hazard and brought it to my administrator’s attention. The maintenance crew came out to assess the situation. They looked down through the floor and quickly backed away. They could not fix it, because a family of raccoons was living under the floor.
This was a novelty at first. My aides and I looked under the floor and there was momma raccoon and her new babies. It soon became quite a distraction, however. One of my aides, not comfortable at the idea of sharing the room with wild animals, became quite skittish. The students, amused by the idea of the new “class pets,” would jump up and down on the floor above the raccoons.
The frequent visits from animal control were also a distraction. Animal control tried many things to move our squatters: motion-activated alarms, assorted traps, male raccoon pheromones. Nothing worked. We were told that we shouldn’t worry about the raccoons ... it was the fleas we should be concerned about, lots of diseases!
The school year ended but the raccoons stayed, as did the hole. I don’t think I got any flea bites but I worry more about the mold. Many of my fellow teachers complained last year of breathing difficulties and their suspicions that there may be mold in these ‘temporary structures.” Once maintenance workers began looking into the classrooms they found mold and needed to tear up sections of the buildings to eradicate the problem.
I returned this year to a repaired floor, and hopefully there is no mold. I haven’t had to clean any mouse droppings off my desk this year, as I frequently did last year. I just hope the air is safe. My students depend on me, but so do my own children, who rely on my health and ability to work.