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‘Eco-unit’ classrooms are not temporary

Mayor Mauricio Macri looks over reconstruction works at a school last week.
By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

City rejects criticism that compares the units to the infamous ‘containers’ of 2005

City Hall is not planning to build container-shaped classrooms like the controversial ones that existed during 2005 and 2006 until they were dismantled due to court orders, Buenos Aires City Education minister Esteban Bullrich insisted yesterday.

Instead, the PRO official branded the structures the City government is building to deal with a lack of classroom space as “eco-units” and remarked that these units should not be seen as a temporary solution but rather a method of building that is here to stay.

“They are not just classrooms, we are putting up entire schools with these units that will be placed wherever new slots are needed to fulfill requests for vacancies,” he said.

Bullrich upped the ante yesterday, one day after City Hall’s opening of the tender for a 27-million peso contract to assemble 41 makeshift classrooms before the 2014 school term begins.

City Ombudsman office and opposition politicians, including former Kirchnerite legislator Francisco “Tito” Nenna accussed the PRO administration of turning to a “precarious” solution in a bid to patch up the evident shortcomings in the public school system.

For his part, Mayor Mauricio Macri celebrated what he said was a successful online registration system while minister Bullrich rejected any improvisation in City Hall’s resorting to materials such as galvanized sheets and PVC to build classrooms.

“What we are doing here, is speeding up times in schools that are already being under construction, but these units we are putting up are equipped with air conditioning and heating. This is not a ‘container’ and nothing alike but a fast and clean constructing method,” Bullrich added.

Makeshift classrooms’ specifications in the technical conditions sheet that was released by City Hall at the beginning of the tender, describe that the future edifications should be placed over a wooden or concrete base and structurally planned to allow a future enlargement of up to three levels.

The document even makes it clear that “stairs” — if there are any — must be located outside “for better comfort and accessibility.”

All these specifications together with the fact that City Hall emphasized in the tender documents the need of school’s administration to facilitate the connection to the sewerage system of future bathroom-units, sound like an endorsement to Bullrich’s words in the sense that the “eco-units” should not be seen as a temporary patch for the lack of vacancies but the future of school-building techniques under Mayor Macri’s rule.

“Maybe they aren’t containers, but they are metal structures that in no way can replace the education institution. They aren’t schools”, Nenna protested.

However, local government’s authorities seemed pretty convinced in their stance. Education portfolio head Bullrich even anticipated that these “eco-units” will be built in every place where the online registration map detects the shortage of school slots.

In the case of these first units, City Hall noted in the tender that most of them will be located in the southern neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires City: in Playón de Piedra Buena ground where a court ruling and a following 2012 law compelled Mayor Macri’s government to build a school complex; near Boca Juniors soccer club’s annex building called Casa Amarilla; in front of Parque Roca ground; some will be added to Youth Public School No. 9’s original structure, in Coronel Martiniano Chilavert No. 2680 and others will be destined to Antonio Zaccagnini College on Lacarra No. 1135.

Finally, the tender documentation also signalled two other establishments that will be enlarged with the so-called “eco-units”: Granadero San Martín kindergarten in Libertador No. 4953 and Provincia de Santa Fe school in Pico No. 2629, in the Saavedra neighbourhood.

Education portfolio renamed these make-shift classrooms as “sectional classrooms” in the tender to distance them from former Mayor Aníbal Ibarra’s “containers,” which were heavily criticized as a “metal trap” with nearly no ventilation.

Almost nine years ago, courts and the Ombudsman office condemned these edifications for their “deplorable hygiene and sanitation conditions.”

That may be why Mayor Macri’s administration is paying particular attention to improving the quality of “eco-units” to avoid suffering the same consequences that Ibarra’s government had to contend with. Yet, if the future of school building is metal sheet, aluminium and PVC membrane as Macri’s official hinted yesterday, then residents will have to bid farewell to bare-brick and white-painted façades that have long characterized the public schools throughout the City.

@Mibeldyk

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