Peek into what have been dubbed “Taj Majal” high schools, with a list of the five most expensive high schools in the country, how much they cost, and what they really offer students.
Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools (Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons)
Almost two years ago, the most expensive high school in the country was completed in Los Angeles – the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools – to the tune of $578 million. There was plenty of hoopla to accompany the grand opening, as well as critics deriding the district for spending huge portions of their budget on such posh facilities. While this school still holds the record for the most expensive high school ever built, others fall in close behind, with state-of-the-art facilities most high school students across the country will never see. Dubbed “Taj Mahal” schools, these institutions offer first-class amenities, along with their eye-popping price tags.
Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools
The newest and most expensive of the Taj Mahal schools sits on the site where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, where the Ambassador Hotel was once located. While much of the original structure has been considerably altered to accommodate a school of more than 4,000 students, certain features of the original site remain. A marble memorial has been erected to remind students of the historic significance of the location, and some of the school areas boast the original names of hotel rooms. For example, the auditorium that is built where the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub once stood, and it boasts the same name and a tropical feel reminiscent of the original structure.
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools was a project in the making for some time, as school officials wrangled with historic preservationists over what to keep and what to get rid of from the original structure. The land under the building was also found to be contaminated when a methane gas field was discovered. The district had to pay $9 million in legal wrangling with the preservationists and another $15 million to preserve certain historic features, according to the Huffington Post. More money ($50 million, to be exact) was spent in methane mitigation and the purchase of a methane mitigation system.
Throughout the course of the project, the size of the school also grew to encompass a large kitchen with a high quality pizza oven, a dance studio featuring cushioned wood floors, and a 10-acre public park. The school also boasts a collection of fine art murals and a state-of-the-art swimming pool. While the finished product is indeed a sight to behold, not everyone is pleased with the final cost of the project.
“New buildings are nice, but when they’re run by the same people who’ve given us a 50-percent dropout rate, they’re a big waste of taxpayer money,” Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution and member of the California Board of Education, told the Huffington Post.
However, some educators argue that the buildings do serve a purpose, since students have been shown to learn more effectively in more pleasant surroundings.
Edward R. Roybal Learning Center
Another Los Angeles school with a hefty price tag is the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which was built in downtown Los Angeles in 2009, with a final price tag of $377 million. The project took 23 years to complete because construction had to be halted twice: once in 1999 after underground methane gas was discovered and again in 2002 when a seismic fault line was found. American School and University reports that a new architect took over the project in 2003 and transformed the plan to create a positive learning environment that will benefit students well into the future.
The Edward R. Roybal Learning Center is set on a 25-acre campus, and it includes a triple gym and a dance studio with a cushioned floor, according to AOL News. The school holds around 2,500 students and offers nearly 73,000 square feet of classroom space, 418 underground parking spaces and a 100-acre community park.
Central No. 9 Visual and Performing Arts High School
The final Los Angeles school on this list is the Central No. 9 Visual and Performing Arts High School that cost $232 million to complete. Students at this school can study performing arts, crafts, photography and film making in a positive environment that fosters creativity. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the building, which is sandwiched between the Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, took nine years to complete.
The school is breathtaking, inside and out. The exterior features a large, steel spiral sculpture, and the interior is filled with airy classrooms and studios. The school boasts a 950-seat performing arts center, a 300-car parking garage and an outdoor atrium for Japanese raku pottery.
Newton North High School
Not all the expensive schools are located on the west side of the country. Newton North High School, located in Newtonville, Massachusetts, opened in the fall of 2010 with a price tag of $197.5 million. According to Boston.com, the school won the 2011 Award for Design Excellence from the Boston Society of Architects.
“We thought the new layout for the site, which brings the entrance to the school into play with the sports field, was brilliant,” one of the judges told Boston.com.
The school features state-of-the-art athletic facilities, a swimming pool and climbing wall. A television studio is also located on the campus, which encompasses 413,000 square feet and accommodates 1,865 students.
New Brunswick High School
The last school on the list is also located on the East Coast – New Brunswick High School in New Jersey. The school, which cost $185 million, holds 1,300 students with 400,000 square feet. The school boasts athletic fields with state-of-the-art lighting, rooftop solar panels and Smart Boards instead of traditional blackboards.
Whether expensive facilities correlate with improved learning will take time to reveal, but these campuses certainly have awe-inspiring amenities that can excite students to attend school.
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