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Renovate or Replace
EPA/National Trust Project
Small Schools


New construction costs nearly twice as much as renovations/additions

Between October 2003 and December 2011, the
Pennsylvania Department of Education approved 70 new school construction projects and 214 construction projects involving renovations and/or additions to existing schools. (These years reflect the most recent data available from the Department of Education.)

All renovated school buildings must be brought up to code and will have the same life expectancy of a new school.

The average cost, per square foot, of new schools is nearly twice the cost of renovations and additions, if all project costs are considered.

New Schools: $197.96 sq. ft.
$113.12 sq. ft.

Click here for the list of projects


Renovate or Replace?

State publication: "The Case for Restoring
and Reusing Older School Buildings”

Download 28-page brochure

In recent decades, hundreds of neighborhood schools have been closed all across Pennsylvania, usually to be replaced by generic mega-schools to which students are bused.  This is usually done in the name of efficiency, the need for modern facilities, ands the desire for a campus-like setting.

But whatever the reason, removing local schools often leads to neighborhood decline, leading to what the Brookings Institution calls the “hollowing out” of Pennsylvania – disinvestment in traditional towns in favor of developing suburbs.

Alarmed by this trend, a task force of state agencies and non-profit partner organizations -- led by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects --  conceived and produced a booklet called “Renovate or Replace?”

The booklet urges school districts to consider the social, environmental, and economic advantages of retaining older neighborhood schools when exploring the need for new or upgraded facilities.

It contains short essays from Pennsylvania’s top level cabinet officers, including:

  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Community and Economic Development
  • Secretary of Health
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Environmental Protection
  • Executive Director, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

The booklet has been sent to all 501 school districts in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and to 2,800 architects by AIA Pennsylvania, a Society of the American Institute of Architects.  Copies are also being distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and Preservation Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s statewide non-profit historic preservation organization.

The brochure was designed and published by Save Our Land, Save Our Towns Inc. with funding by the William Penn Foundation.




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