When fourth-graders at Pleasant Grove Elementary School head to class each day, they head up a ramp and into a room all their own.

Their school building is full, along with nearby Sugar Grove Elementary School, meaning a total of five classes within the Center Grove school district are in portable classrooms behind their school buildings.

The school district has used portable classrooms in the past for special uses, such as a computer lab, but hasn’t had to use them for general education classes since the late 1990s, assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

Now, with enrollment growing every year and elementary schools running out of space, school officials had to make the call to use them again.

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The goal is to use them temporarily, until the school district’s newest elementary school opens in 2019, Long said. Earlier this year, school board members approved spending up to $42 million on a new elementary school with room for up to 800 students in the southern portion of the school district, off South Morgantown Road. Officials said at the time that portable classrooms were likely for this school year, and more would likely be needed next school year.

“We knew were getting close to needing a new building last year. We will probably need to use them for a couple of years until the new school is done in 2019,” Long said.

Center Grove is the only local school district using portable classrooms this school year. Clark-Pleasant, which is also one of the county’s fastest-growing school districts, is not using any portable classrooms right now, but officials have said that could be a possibility in the future as enrollment continues to grow.

On their first day back in school Wednesday, dozens of Center Grove students were welcomed into the portable classrooms that teachers had already spent hours decorating and preparing.

The portable classrooms look similar to temporary construction offices on the outside, but inside, they look like a classroom, with carpeting, dry erase boards, bulletin boards and tables and chairs.

Each classroom is hooked into the school building’s fire alarms, intercom and telephone system, computer system and internet, Long said. And each teacher has a key card so they can easily access the school building for when students need to use the restroom, he said.

And teachers have taken time to make the classrooms inviting, Long and Pleasant Grove Elementary School principal Trael Kelly said.

The teachers have decorated the rooms with themes, including superheroes and movies, he said.

And they were also involved with how the portable classrooms would be organized and arranged, from where desks would go to where phone lines and outlets would be, he said.

That allowed those teachers to be able to have a plan for the room to be organized, but also welcoming and warm for students, Kelly said.

By the numbers

Here is a look at enrollment growth at Center Grove in recent school years:

2016-2017;8,180

2015-2016;7,948

2014-2015;7,796

2013-2014;7,735

2012-2013;7,586

SOURCE: Indiana Department of Education

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.