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How much would you pay for that high school?

Some cost more than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it.

Supporters of Houston’s nationally recognized High School for the Performing and Visual Arts have lobbied for 15 years for a larger, more modern building.

They could get their wish soon. But sticker shock over the $80.2 million price tag – for a school built to hold 750 students – may have to subside first.

The new campus, planned for downtown Houston instead of the current Montrose site, would cost $107,000 per student. That amounts to two or three times the per-pupil price for the other new high schools in HISD Superintendent Terry Grier’s proposal for a November bond referendum.

“What I don’t know is, what are we getting for $80 million? We have not sat down and gone over all those costs,” HISD board president Mike Lunceford said Friday. “We know there are special needs for that school. We need schools that are going to hold up, but we’re not trying to build Taj Mahals.”

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, HSPVA is one of the crown jewels of HISD, and as a school that offers specialized programming – performing and visual arts – it has special needs, and that adds to the price tag. As the story notes, outside of HSPVA, the per-student cost for the other high schools is right around the national average. By all means, do the due diligence and make sure we’re getting full value for the dollar, but let’s not lose the forest for the trees here. HSPVA is going to cost more than other schools.

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  1. Jim says:

    All of the High Schools that are proposed to be replaced offer specialized programming in one subject or another. I think it is only fair to look at whether it is that it should cost that much more to provide the specialized programming offered at HSPVA than the specialized programming at one of the science or engineering magnets. Does performance space cost more per head to provide than science laboratory space for instance?

    A big reason for the disparity would seem to the casual onlooker to be the enrollment target. HSPVA will obviously require a number of specialist facilities but is there a reason why those facilities can only serve 750 students when the other magnets are slated to serve at least double that?

  2. […] around. That will be a big driver of these sizing decisions. In the case of schools such as HSPVA, one would expect that they’ll fill up at any reasonable size. But how much of any projected […]

  3. […] everywhere. Actually, there are several high schools in the Third Ward, just south of downtown, and HSPVA is on its way to downtown. Perhaps the issue isn’t a lack of available schools, but a lack of […]