McAllen ISD board members approve to lease portable buildings to local hospitals

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Twelve portables used to teach students at McAllen Independent School District could soon be used to help hospitals amid the pandemic. School board members approved to lease the district's portables to area hospitals during a special meeting Wednesday.

Hospitals across the Rio Grande Valley are running out of space as COVID-19 cases continue surging. DHR Health, McAllen Medical Center and the HCA Rio Grande Regional Hospital showed interest in using the district's unused portables as a solution to their crowding problem.

"Each hospital may have a different use for them. Everything from some patients using some of the portables, to being used for workspace for the employees, or even as temporary housing for some employees and hospital staff that came from out of town," Sam Saldivar Jr., McAllen ISD trustee vice-president, said.

If the buildings are used to house COVID-19 patients, there were concerns about the potential health hazard of contracting the virus after the building is returned

"I just want to publicly put it out there that we are aware of that, but that there are measures in place that if they do return it, it will be clean and suitable for use," Conrado Alvarado, McAllen ISD board president, said.

The agreement requires a thorough cleaning before the hospitals return the borrowed portables. "Lessee shall clean, disinfect and sanitize the Portables using hospital grade disinfectants and sanitizers prior to returning the Portables to Lessor," as per a copy of the agreement shared with CHANNEL FIVE NEWS.

Lease agreement with DHR Health
Lease agreement with McAllen Medical Center
Lease agreement with Rio Grande Regional Hospital

Board members also discussed whether parting with the portable buildings would leave the district in search of additional space, especially as schools around the state prepare to reopen.

"If we were to go back in August and open up classrooms and we were to need additional space to enforce the social distancing, would these portables be an option?" Larry Esparza, a board member, asked Superintendent Jose A. Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said about 40% of parents surveyed in May chose to continue their child's education through distance learning. With the number of COVID-19 cases going up, they expect more parents will be choosing to keep their kids home and away from the campus.

The superintendent felt confident they would be able to practice social distancing with the current available space, but he said they do have some contingencies.

Before the board voted on allowing the leasing of the portables, they had to declare the buildings officially as surplus. That would help clear the district of violating state statute.

The school was planning on selling the portables to South Texas College. Ten of them had been sitting unused there for the last two years, remnants of the early college campus; the two others were at an elementary campus, also vacant.

The district was considering using the portables as a weight room for a middle school, but reconsidered. Saldivar estimated some of the portables can be up to ten years old.

"The only discussions we've had about potentially using them was for middle school weight rooms, but we had our concerns with regard to the flooring, and things of that sort," Gonzalez said.

In March 2019, the district contracted an appraiser who found eight portables were valued between $40,000 to $46,000 each, according to Salvidar Jr. The agreement does not currently state the rent, but a new fair market value assessment is expected to fall within that range.

The lease agreements were approved but the hospitals' signatures are pending.


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