Menu Contact/Location

Cost of new Mt. Lebanon high school: $132 million

By Tim Puko
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 

It would cost the Mt. Lebanon School District close to $132 million in construction costs alone to build a high school, project architects said Tuesday night.A new building is one of four options the district can consider for the high school, the architects told about 300 residents who attended a special meeting to hear the possibilities.

The district needs at least $79.8 million to pay the cost of renovations to the building, including a new roof, asbestos abatement and facilities improvements, said Kerry Leonard of the OWP/P design firm in Chicago.

The architects spent most of their time talking about the midpriced option, an estimated $118.7 million combination of renovation and new construction.
That option and the new high school option are anchored around a glass-enclosed, multifloor commons area, which could include an open library and other social and collaborative workspaces.A fourth option would include improvements to educational space on the high school’s 80-year-old campus off Route 19.

The main building of the high school along Cochran Road is to be preserved in all the project options, something community residents demanded, architects said.

The project was an issue in last year’s school board elections, where rumors about the cost were used against incumbent candidates.

Yesterday was the first time the expected cost of the options was made public.

“The modifications to this building will be expensive and difficult to afford,” board member Elaine L. Cappucci acknowledged. “But what we cannot afford is to do nothing.”

Architects and district officials talked about the plans for more than 90 minutes in the high school auditorium.

“What I’m seeing here is something that’s completely modern and something that’s completely new, but doesn’t pay attention to the design aesthetics of the (older) community it’s in,” said resident and parent Jim Martin. “I’m worried it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

District officials have tried to brace the community for the project’s impact. They have had regular updates from the architects at board meetings, created a blog dedicated to the project on the district’s Web site and frequently promoted yesterday’s meeting.

More than half of the district’s utilities costs stem from the high school, and there are limitations for one building on the campus because of asbestos, Cappucci said.

The district needs to decrease capacity to match decreasing enrollment, she said.

The renovation and new building options would make the high school about 20 percent smaller than the current school.

Enrollment last year was 1,912; new construction and major renovations are targeting an 1,800-student capacity.

Architects and district officials want classroom clusters and space for collaborative educational programs to be a centerpiece of the redesign, a common goal in contemporary school building projects.

Funding for the project will have to be made through bonds, Superintendent John R. Allison said.

District officials plan to choose their design by mid-September.



Tim Puko can be reached at or 412-320-7991.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633