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October 20, 2014
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City’s make-shift classrooms under fire

Students protest against the online registration system that left many without a slot for the 2014 school year.
By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

Macri launches tender to build temporary units that are reminiscent of containers

Studying is hardly ever easy for children, but it may be even more difficult when they are forced to have lessons inside cargo-containers recycled into metal-sheet classrooms, with neither proper ventilation on hot days nor adequate heating when temperatures drop in the winter.

The make-shift classrooms resemble those used in Buenos Aires City during the post-2001 institutional meltdown as consequence of a shortage in schools, which served as shelters for children.

A decade later, Mayor Mauricio Macri has seemingly been inspired by the atypical scheme as a solution to the problems caused by his administration’s new online registration system, which has left between 3,000 to 17,000 children, depending on the source, without slots in the educational system.

A tender was launched Monday to supply the temporary classrooms and the winner of the 27-million-peso contract will be unveiled tomorrow at 10am. To date, the Education Ministry has planned 41 of these make-shift classroms, mostly in southern neighbourhoods. They must be up and running within 20 days of the award.

Macri’s administration has labelled them as “sectional classrooms” in an effort to disassociate them from the container-shaped ones, and has even taken precautions to improve the quality of materials these temporary classrooms will be made from. But the Ombudsman’s office considers this insufficient.

“They may technically be better, but they are still a precarious solution to solve a problem the educational system has been facing for years,” Gustavo Lesbergueris, in charge of the Ombudsman office’s education area, told the Herald.

Back in 2005, Mayor Ibarra was heavily criticized for building such classrooms with “deplorable hygiene and sanitation conditions for children,” according to the Ombudsman’s office.

Infrastructure was not prepared for the disabled, space was not adequate for the number of students, fire prevention regulations weren’t respected and neither running water nor proper toilets were available for children, the report added.

Even Macri’s allies condemned Ibarra’s so-called emergency scheme. Current PRO Youth coordinator Luciana Blasco was one of the harshest voices in those years as a City lawmaker.

Last Monday, Lesbergueris followed the same steps and demanded a complete report from City Hall about how Macri’s “sectional classrooms” will be used and where they will be located.

Until press time yesterday, the Education Ministry had not responded to the Herald’s inquiry on the issue.

“This solution doesn’t replace an alternative school-building policy, especially in the southern end of the City where they are needed to accommodate a larger and unsatisfied demand”, Lesbergueris said.

He also told the Herald his office is following the tender process closely, and that they will examine each of the units with architects once they are installed to check their basic conditions.

Macri’s ‘containers’

According to the technical specifications that was released as part of the tender documentation, the future “section-classrooms” must fulfill a number of structural requirements to be accepted, including minimum dimensions of five to seven metres in length, six to eight metres in width and two to four metres in height.

They must be placed over a wooden or concrete base, with a phenolic board floor to resist water and flames. The roof must include a metal sheet.

There are also two other aspects where City Hall has focused to avoid suffering the same courts’ resistance as Ibarra’s administration: ventilation and air-conditioning and bathrooms.

Back in 2005, one of the most criticized aspects of the containers-classrooms were their lack of proper conditions for keeping students warm during cold temperatures. On the contrary, during heating degree days, their interior became a sauna with insufficient ventilation and no air-conditioning system.

Although the new classrooms do incorporate ventilation and air-conditioning there are no specifications on how they should be integrated.

@Mibeldyk

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