Portable centres of… something

By Nicole McPhee

On top of regular back-to-school challenges, University of Calgary students have two new classrooms to navigate. Classrooms TA 101 and 102 are located in portables otherwise known as "ATCO portable centres of excellence," required to accommodate rising enrolment at
U of C.

"Unfortunately, although we’ve got two new buildings, we don’t have adequate classroom space," said U of C Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs Peggy Patterson. "We explored options, some of which were to jam up classes with more people, or cancel classes. In the end, [VP Finance] Dr. Winter came to the decision that for the short term the trailers would be the best decision."

According to Judy Roche the Office for Institutional Analysis, the unofficial enrolment this year for full-time undergraduates is 19,397 students, an increase of 4.7 per cent over the 2000 enrolment.

Full-time graduate enrolment has also increased by six per cent from 2000 figures.

According to Dan Clement, CANA Senior Project Manager, the portables are not permanent. The trailers are air conditioned and heated, and contain full wiring for phone lines and computers.

The most visible trailer is located between Earth Sciences and Science B and provides swing space for library staff displaced during recent renovations. It also houses the
campus construction project management site office. Another trailer located behind Engineering block C is for Engineering graduate students only, who specifically requested to be housed in the portables.

"We’re trailer trash," smiled Civil Engineering grad student Tom Chalmers. "We’re out here by choice, it’s more crowded inside and I would much rather be out here than in there."

The graduate students prefer the portables because they are equipped with a lounge and fridge. They also have enough room to bring in bikes and any equipment needed for their jobs.

The relocation did have its downside, explained Chalmers. "One day we came in to find we were being moved," he said, adding that he was forced to work from home this summer while the trailer was prepared.

Trailers TRA and TRB are located behind Math Sciences and Education Block respectively. The trailers are divided into two classrooms with space for about 60 students per room.

"If you sit more than two or three rows from the front you can’t see or hear anything," said Computer Science student Chris Wilson. "We have a small class though, so it’s not as much of an inconvenience as if you had a class with more people."

Accessibility is also an issue with the portables. Although there are ramps leading to the doors, the doors are not automatic.

"When they came up with the idea, I mentioned to [the planners] they need ramps, wide doors, and quick access to washrooms in the nearby building," said Merlin Keillor of the Disability Resource Centre. "But they are trying to throw things together quickly, and I don’t think they’re seeing this as part of the bigger picture."

The portables may or may not be here to stay.

"At this point, they’re on a five-year lease," said Patterson. "We could remove them, or convert them to some other purpose down the road."

Leave a comment