McALLEN — The school board here approved the lease of a dozen surplus portable buildings to local hospitals for overflow COVID-19 patient capacity Wednesday afternoon.
The district approved leases of the buildings to McAllen Medical Center, HCA Rio Grande Regional Hospital and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Rio Grande Valley hospitals have said for over a week that the influx of new COVID-19 patients has pushed them to capacity.
Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez said the buildings were not currently in use and would almost certainly not be needed by the district, even accounting for social-distancing measures the district will need to incorporate when in-person classes resume in the fall.
“The only discussions that 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. So for classrooms, no we don’t have any need for them in the future,” he said.
The buildings will be leased to the hospitals at fair market value. Some of the buildings had previously been appraised between $40,000 and $46,000.
The hospitals will cover the cost of moving and returning the portables, Gonzalez said, adding that they would be responsible for disinfecting and sanitizing them.
“Obviously when we got them back, even though they had already undergone a deep-cleaning, we would go back through them with our Goldshield Anti-Microbial agent that we use and give them a deep-cleaning as well,” he said.
Trustee Danny Vela during the meeting said that the decision showed solidarity between the district and the community.
“I think it’s a very noble act on the part of the district, and it certainly exemplifies the spirit that our teachers and staff convey to our students, and I know that administration feels the same way and I know that every colleague that I’ve worked with as a trustee on this school board believes in the spirit of community…” he said.
Altruism aside, the lease may be a sound financial move on the part of the district; as Trustee Marco Suarez pointed out, the hospitals are liable to make improvements to the portables.
“I’m going to also make the assumption that if the hospitals are gonna take these portables, they’re going to have to comply by their health regulations, which means we can probably assume that we’re gonna get those portable buildings in better shape than we gave to them,” he said. “Aside from them being sanitized, I would think that their air conditioning systems, their filtering systems, are going to be better than what we have.”
However, it’s not clear that those portable buildings will ever return to the district. According to Gonzalez, the hospitals may want to keep them permanently.
“One of the three has already shown interest in purchasing,” he said.