School Overcrowded? They Take Classrooms Where There Are None

Associated Press

DeWayne Titus Jr. capitalizes on overcrowded schools.

Titus and two brothers run Steelgard Inc., which claims to be the state’s largest supplier of portable classrooms.

Steelgard has added a shift and hired 150 new employees since last year to double its output to four units a day in response to an estimated shortage of 5,000 classrooms statewide.

“Our models are designed to meet all the requirements of the Office of the State Architect,” Titus said proudly while on a walking tour of the plant in southern San Joaquin County.


Meet Quake Standards

The 960-square-foot classrooms are fitted with steel beam roofs, meet earthquake standards and are accessible to the handicapped, he said. The company has shipped 400 units this year and had orders for another 250.

They are destined for places such as Modesto where hundreds of grade-school students eat in their classrooms and study in cafeterias because of overcrowding. The district expects delivery of 22 portables in mid-October.

The mini baby-boom, new housing construction and resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees are three factors contributing to shifts in enrollment, especially at the grade-school level.

State educators expect an additional 88,000 students in school this year and 568,000 by 1991, producing a need for 26,000 more classrooms.

Titus claims portables can be produced for half the cost of a standard classroom in less than half the time.

Thirty Classrooms for $1.9 Million

Neil Hafley School in nearby Manteca is a year-old school built entirely from Steelgard portable units. Thirty classrooms accommodating 775 students were built in 245 days at a cost of $1.9 million.

Titus estimated a 15-room conventional school for 375 students would take 912 days to build at a cost of $2.3 million.

“We’re sold on the product,” said Hafley Principal Joe Wickham.

Titus’ father, DeWayne Sr., started the business 25 years ago manufacturing shipping containers.

“The story goes a principal saw one of my boxes and said, ‘That’s just what I need for my kids,”’ the elder Titus said.

The company has been turning out portable classrooms for 15 years.