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rendering-of-emerson-high-school-entry.jpg Frisco Independent School District
Rendering of Emerson High School, under construction in the Frisco district.

Rising costs strain budget on Frisco (Texas) high school construction

The budget for Emerson High School, now under construction, has risen nearly $13 million, to $111.6 million

Construction of the Frisco (Texas) school district’s newest high school is underway, and labor shortages and the rising costs of materials have driven up the price tag significantly.

The Dallas Morning News reports that challenges in the building industry have resulted in a nearly $13 million increase for the Emerson High School project, pushing the total to about $111.6 million.

“We did encounter a bit of a sticker shock,” says Scott Warstler, the district’s executive director of operations.

Texas is facing a worker shortage because of complicated immigration policies and the lack of specialized workers. That is causing delays and budget overruns.

Immigrants make up nearly half of the area’s jobs in construction, according to a recent study by the New American Economy. But shifting immigration policies have contributed to a shortage of workers entering the country. Meanwhile, the area needs at least 20,000 more construction workers, according to the Dallas Builders Association.

The Frisco district has to compete for workers against other booming industries like the housing industry.

“Every school district, home builder or any other type of business or organization with a construction project is competing for labor,” Warstler says.

Frisco schools spokeswoman Meghan Cone said the rising cost of materials also has pushed construction costs higher. Lumber and steel prices have increased, for example, she says.

The district also included additional features for Emerson that weren’t in original plans, such as synthetic turf baseball and softball fields, a paved marching band field, and additional security features such as a storm shelter. Those vhave added about $4 million to the construction cost.

The Emerson campus is Frisco’s only new school under construction and is set to be completed in 2021.

Meanwhile, the district is in the early planning stages for another high school, two middle schools and three elementary campuses to address growth. In 2009-10, the Frisco district had 33,757 students enrolled; it now has 62,386 students.

So Frisco is bracing for the labor shortage to continue as they plan future projects.

“It’s not something that’s going away anytime soon,” Warstler says. “But we are going to account for additional costs on a project-by-project basis.”

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