A state law regulating noise standards for classrooms in Connecticut is drawing quite a racket from officials in a small school district near Hartford.
The 3,272-student Colchester district ran into problems when it brought in portable classrooms to relieve overcrowding at Bacon Academy, the district’s public high school, which is about 150 students over capacity. Before the school could put them to use, officials were informed by the state department of education that the portables no longer met noise standards under the new law.
The law, passed two years ago, requires the background-noise level for classrooms in all grade levels to be no higher than 35 decibels—about as loud as the average suburban house with humming appliances and little other noise.
“The assumption was made that we would be grandfathered in for this [regulation],” said Karen A. Loiselle, the superintendent of Colchester public schools. The portables, which were being relocated from one of the district’s elementary schools to Bacon Academy after eight years of use, were allowed exceptions on a number of other facility regulations.
The acoustic regulations were suggested by the Washington-based American National Standards Institute, which recommends standards for a variety of businesses and industries. The recommendations are based on guidelines from the Melville, N.Y.-based Acoustical Society of America.
Ms. Loiselle said she has been told by officials in the industry that “a portable classroom cannot possibly be built” in accordance with the standard. In a news release, the Charlottesville, Va.-based Modular Building Institute said it is working with the Acoustical Society of America to draft a supplement for the existing guidelines.
The law based on the standard has caused a bit of inconvenience in Colchester. Today, the portable classrooms sit unused in the parking lot of Bacon Academy while students inside are taught in equipment-storage areas and the cafeteria.
“Our priority is to ensure we have the use of the classrooms this fall,” said Ms. Loiselle. “We need to be able to get them installed.”
The district has asked lawmakers to revise the law before they adjourn in June and is requesting a waiver allowing the classrooms to be used on a short-term basis.
Tom Murphy, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education, said the state is “inclined to support that request.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2007 edition of Education Week