AHS Cost Factors

The total cost of the new Arlington high school will be $291 million. Of that amount, an estimated $86 million will be contributed by the state (Massachusetts School Building Authority or MSBA), and an estimated $205 million will be funded by Arlington taxpayers. For more information on the factors that contribute to the total cost of the project, see https://ahsbuilding.org/blog/cost-the-big-picture.

On an apples-to-apples basis, the total cost of the new high school is in line with the cost of other recent Boston area high schools. Because the rate of inflation in Boston construction costs is so high — about 4% annually  — it is important to escalate all costs to the AHS schedule. On this basis, the total cost of the new high school is in the middle of the pack. The same is true when evaluating cost per square foot or cost per pupil. 

Arlington HS Waltham HS **
(Vocational Included)
Belmont HS
(Upper Middle Included)
Saugus HS-MS
(Upper Middle Included)
Somerville HS
(Vocational Included)
Total Project Cost $291M $381M $295M $160M $256M
Total Project Cost Escalated to AHS Schedule $291M $381M $311M $180M $287M
Construction Cost Per Sq. Ft. $576 Unknown $560 $533 $606
Design Enrollment 1,755 1,830 2,215 1,360 1,590
Project Cost Per Pupil * $165,728 $208,357 $140,409 $132,499 $181,098

Analysis escalated to AHS schedule. Refer to www.ahsbuilding.org for the complete analysis.
* Cost per pupil calculation includes sq. ft. for non-HS program space, Arlington has more non-HS space than comparable projects.
** Waltham data is from the Preferred Schematic Report, Schematic Design

No school is perfectly comparable to our own. AHS has specific factors that increase its costs.

  • Complex, contaminated site
    The AHS site is complicated: there is a 24-foot grade change, the Millbrook runs under the site, and there are known contaminants that must be carefully managed during construction. All of these constraints add complexity — and cost — to the project. There are no other feasible sites for the high school.

  • The need to build and run a school at the same time
    Building on an occupied site with phased construction is a complex effort requiring close attention to safety, utility coordination, segregation of active school buildings and grounds from construction work, minimizing disruption to classroom work, and careful attention to both the construction schedule and the academic schedule. These factors affect both the schedule and the budget.  

  • Additional building functions
    AHS does more than educate high school students. Our state-mandated inclusion preschool will remain in the new high school, as will school district offices and other education-related programs and resources. Most Town offices are being relocated to cut project costs, but space is limited in other town buildings. After conducting analyses, the town determined that it was more cost-effective to continue to house the remaining education-related programs and resources at the high school. 

Of special importance to Arlington taxpayers is the large MSBA contribution to the cost of the new school. Arlington’s partnership with the MSBA cannot be taken for granted. MSBA does not fund every school project that comes along. It has a constrained budget, and competition for MSBA funding is extremely tight. The AHS Building Committee has done an exceptional job in obtaining an estimated $86 million in funding — about 30% of the total cost — from the state. Without a successful debt exclusion for AHS, the state will withdraw their commitment to pay an estimated $86 million. A “No” vote on June 11 would result in less school for more money.