Orange County Prop. 39 School Gets Creative with Space

February 3, 2017

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As any Prop. 39 school can tell you, nothing lasts forever and nothing is guaranteed. However, Orange County Academy of Sciences and Arts (OCASA) in Laguna Nigel found a unique solution to this problem. The school, which opened in the fall of 2016 and focuses on STEAM, shares a school site with Community Roots Academy so space can be tight. To solve this issue, and not build anything permanent, the school brought in two shipping containers outfitted as an art studio and a maker lab. Best of all, they are easy to transport to a new location should the school move to a new site. We asked OCASA Executive Director Kapil Mathur (KM) about the labs.

CCSA: Who's idea was it to bring shipping containers as classrooms?

KM: The school district originally had a relocatable classroom that we were going to use for our labs. Unfortunately, it was damaged beyond repair and the building was removed. Fortunately, we have parents with a lot of vision and determination to see our hands-on labs come to reality. A parent of ours researched converting shipping containers into usable space.

CCSA: What do you use them for?

KM: The shipping containers were created into an art studio and maker lab. The art lab is used to prepare art lessons in the classrooms and store materials. We also have our kiln and practical life supplies in there. The maker lab houses all our equipment for building and tinkering. Everything from hand tools, saws, 3D printers, CNC machine, laser engraver and oscilloscope can be found in the maker lab.

CCSA: How much did they cost?

KM: The cost of shipping containers varies widely with their condition. We opted to purchase containers that had made only one transpacific journey. We then had them customized with roll-up doors, ventilation systems, skylights and energy efficient LED lighting. Our highly customized containers cost about $6,000 each. Standard containers without the options can be purchased for much less.

CCSA: How long did it take to covert to labs?

KM: The vendor took about six weeks to customize them and deliver them to our campus. Our parents then spent several weekends installing the equipment in the containers - storage, saws, laser engraver, kiln, etc.

CCSA: How sturdy are they?

KM: They are solid steel and should last for many years. The key is to keep the paint in good condition to prevent rust.

CCSA: Are they easy/inexpensive to move?

KM: They are fairly mobile. They are designed to travel on a semi-truck so if we have to move sites, we can load them up and take them where they need to go.

We did have to move the maker lab about six feet. It took two workers a day with jacks and pipes to slide the lab over.

CCSA: Any caveats for someone who might want to bring them onto their campus?

KM: We have had a lot of success with the labs. I'm glad we had them customized with ventilation and sky lights. It makes it more pleasant to be inside. They are very narrow inside so don't expect it to replace a classroom.