Can I buy a used portable classroom from a California school district?

Hers how to buy a used Portable Classroom from a California school district
Matt Banes modular building information source
Written by Matt Banes

Yes, you can buy a used Portable Classroom from a California school district or possibly have one donated, but finding the right facility management person in charge of selling used assets is sometimes difficult.

Nearly every California public school district has used Portable Classrooms throughout its network of campuses. Eventually, when these prefabricated school buildings are no longer needed the district will sell or donate them. The trick is either having a person to contact that specializes in Portable Classroom brokering, or knowing who to call at each district’s main office.

Large school districts like Los Angeles Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Fresno Unified School District, and Long Beach Unified School District have thousands of 24′ x 40′ and 24′ x 60′ used Portables that are being used as classroom spaces, science labs, locker and bathroom trailers, and various other facilities. Small and mid-sized districts also have portables but not nearly as many. These facilities were manufactured to meet the strict California Division of the State Architect (DSA) building codes. This means that they were built to a very high standard and, if they have been maintained properly, are most likely in good structural condition even after twenty years of use.

Now that you know where all the portable classrooms are in California let’s get you connected with the right people. First, if you don’t have the time to research and make several phone calls to find the person who has the authority to sell or donate a used portable on behalf of a school district, it may be best to ask a portable classroom broker, school facility consultant or an Architect with connections to the school construction business in California. I’m writing this article as someone with decades of experience helping solve school, church, and business space problems. So, if you want the fastest results you can email Matt@iModular.com. Otherwise, keep reading.

If you decide to contact local schools directly here are the most important Action Items to have prepared before your call:

Action Item 1. Know exactly what sized portable classroom you need and how many you are planning on installing. Also, know where you will be placing these on your property. Having the help of a modular building / portable classroom architect or planner is a smart move. You can use the Modular Building Help Line to find a local California Architect with experience obtaining permits for portable classrooms.

Action Item 2. Be sure that you will be able to get a permit to place a portable classroom on your property. You will need to discuss this with your local building and planning authority. Here is a street address and phone directory of all California Building Departments.

Action Item 3. Always schedule a site visit to inspect the Portable Classroom before you agree to buy or have it donated. This is also another “task” that you may want to have an experienced person help you with. Knowing what aspects of the portable classroom to inspect, what problems to look for, and knowing what it will take to relocate the Portable from one location to another are very important pieces of the puzzle.

Portable classrooms are not very sophisticated so you can quickly troubleshoot any problems and decide if the transaction makes sense. The HVAC and Electrical systems should be working properly and a maintenance record of the HVAC system should be provided. If no maintenance history is available you can always have a California HVAC company like Geary Pacific Supply inspect the system and give you a price for maintenance or replacement.

Be sure to check that the floor and roof construction is intact and without leak damage on the interior of the Portable. Check for ceiling tile stains, floor stains, holes, mold, or mildew. As long as the structure is in decent shape every other aspect of the classroom can easily be repaired, replaced, or remodeled.

Action Item 4. Have a budget in mind and consider all aspects of the project, not just the portable classroom. Even if a Portable Classroom is donated the costs associated with relocating and installing the structure can be significant. Be sure to have a complete scope of work including price estimates for utility connections, a handicap access ramp, parking and pathways, landscaping, and the installation of technology for learning, communications, and emergency situations.

Now that you have your “Action Items” ready it’s time to start getting serious about finding a used Portable Classroom from a public school district. At iModular.com we are constantly searching for used modular buildings, portable classrooms, and mobile office trailers. Our network of contacts is made up of people representing all types of educational facilities, religious organizations, and businesses throughout the United States. We use good old-fashioned cold calling to find inventory and calling school district officials is on our monthly To-Do list.

Here are some of the job titles of the contacts we find to be most helpful when searching for a used portable classroom in public and private school systems:


Facilities AdministratorFacilities SupervisorManager of Real Estate
Facilities PlannerPhysical Plant ManagerFacility Coordinator
Purchasing ManagerContract ManagerProcurement Officer
Facility and Purchasing Job Titles at Schools in the United States
Here is a very helpful list of California Public School District Offices complete with addresses and phone numbers. Greatschools.org California School District Directory.

Used California Portable Classrooms can be purchased directly from school district offices when the school system no longer needs the space.

Used school Portable Classrooms in California

As you make your “cold calls” to schools be sure to consider the distance a school site with Portables is to the site where you have space to install the structures. The longer the distance, the more expensive the transportation costs will be. If a school is going to donate one or more portables this cost may be worth a long haul but it’s always better to shop close by your site.

When you finally reach a person that has a lead on one or more used Portables make sure that you move quickly. Have your “Action Items” in order and set up a site visit as soon as possible. Remember to get as much information about the Portable as possible including any paperwork the owner has. The original contract, floor plans, and maintenance records are all important and should be readily available if the school is operating an organized facility department. This is particularly true with DSA classrooms in California because they are built to meet specific guidelines for public school construction. Proof of the portables being approved for use by the Division of the State Architect should be provided before you purchase or accept any donation.

Remember, an experienced Architect or Portable Classroom supplier should be able to verify any information about a legal Portable and explain the steps required to re-certify the Portable for use in any capacity other than on another California public school campus.

If you have time to invest in finding a Portable Classroom for your school, church, or business it may be well worth the cold calls and internet research time. Otherwise, working with an experienced Portable Classroom consultant will most likely net you the same results without impacting your schedule. Either way, shopping smart is always the best way to find school space.

Questions? You call always call me directly in Huntington Beach, California (800) 806-7485 or email Matt@imodular.com.

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About the author

Matt Banes modular building information source

Matt Banes

Since 1988 I have helped countless businesses, schools, and churches buy, rent, and sell all types of modular buildings, mobile offices, and portable classrooms for a wide variety of business and educational uses.

One of my success secrets is being available by phone to quickly answer questions and help you find what you need cost-effectively. So, why wait? Call me directly at the Modular Building Help Line (800) 806-7485.

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