Anatomy of a school construction project

School construction across the U.S. has risen steadily since 1995, peaking in 2005 and leveling off in 2011, according to School Planning & Management’s 16th Annual School Construction Report.

The per-student costs of building a school from the ground up are staggering. High schools, for example, cost more than $30,000 per student, according to SP&M.

The average U.S. high school costs $188 per square foot, up from $100 per square foot in the mid-1990s. The priciest school projects cost upwards of $550 per square foot.

School construction money has continued to flow to new high schools, like Glen Allen, in recent years. Forty-eight percent of all construction money was allocated for high schools in 2011, according to national statistics, while 18 percent was reserved for middle schools and 33 percent was used for elementary schools.

Smith said bond referendums come along every five years in a decent economy. In the post-2008 U.S. economy, many school systems, including HCPS, have seen that five-year window “pushed out a little bit,” Smith said.

Russo said Henrico’s next school construction project won’t start until 2014 at the earliest.

“It’s not the easiest time to [fund] major construction projects right now,” Russo said of future schools needed in Henrico. “But we’ll continue to make every effort to keep up with this area’s growth. We have a great team here, and I trust them to do that.”

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Building Excellence

Denny Carter

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