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Snapshot of school construction shows steady spending

A look at upgrades in Montana, Arkansas and Illinois
This past summer, a number of districts broke ground and got to work . (Photo: Gettyimages.com/martin barraud)
This past summer, a number of districts broke ground and got to work . (Photo: Gettyimages.com/martin barraud)

Districts and government agencies spend nearly $50 billion every year on school construction projects across the U.S.

This past summer, a number of districts broke ground and got to work while many others, with their projects still in the planning phase, approved funds for new buildings, upgrades and repairs.

Montana

In Missoula County Public Schools in Montana, 16 construction projects totaling $30 million launched this year as part of Smart Schools 2020, a multiyear initiative to improve facilities across the district. Funds for the projects came via bond approval last November.

Projects include:

  • Technology infrastructure and security updates
  • Flexible learning spaces at multiple schools
  • Demolition and replacement of one elementary school, and major renovations at another
  • New theater for an elementary school
  • Roof repairs at one high school and new sprinklers and fiber optic cable at another
  • New artificial turf at the district’s high school football stadium and track resurfacing
  • Extensive deferred facility maintenance

Arkansas

The state of Arkansas approved $44.5 million for 49 school construction projects, including:

  • HVAC and electrical system repair projects across the state
  • New elementary schools in the Arkadelphia and Rogers school districts
  • A new middle school in Bentonville
  • A new high school in the Cutter-Morning Star School District

The state’s Academic Facilities Partnership Program reimburses its more than 230 districts for a percentage of state-approved construction projects based on the amount of local property taxes, with less wealthy districts receiving more support.

Illinois

Chicago Public Schools has undertaken new school construction projects totaling $320 million in the last six years, with another $330 million scheduled for the future.

The commitment includes several projects, such as Arthur Curry Elementary School, which is building an $18 million annex with 16 classrooms, a lunchroom and a multipurpose room.

At Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, a $13 million expansion project that adds space for up to 400 new students should be completed this school year.

And a new $30 million elementary school in the city’s South Loop will be completed in 2019. The 111,000-square-foot facility will accommodate 1,200 students in 44 classrooms and help ease overcrowding at South Loop Elementary School, which is designed for 690 students but houses 835.