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School officials nationwide have been placing greater emphasis on pre-kindergarten education as studies show that good education at an early age can help students do better later on and improve graduation rates.

The facility was built in part to ease overcrowding. The school district now has 19,000 students using portable classrooms, said Jacqueline Porter, director of early childhood.

Along with the young children the school serves, high school students can help teach in the science lab and parents have a meeting space where they can get involved in their children’s education.

“By moving those children into their own spaces where everything’s tailored to fit their needs, their scores are exponentially better,” Ms. Porter said.

Often in the emphasis on curriculum, teachers and students, school construction can be overlooked. A study by Craig Howley, an education scholar at Ohio University, examined the best size for schools, specifically high schools. He found little scrutiny of how much it costs to build schools.

“Oddly enough, as often happens in education policy, no one really knows because no one has really asked,” said the study, published in 2008 in Educational Planning magazine. “Lack of scholarly interest in these questions is surprising, perhaps scandalous, in view of the large sums spent and the political battles often waged when new schools are built.”

Ms. Combs said she has faced resistance from state and local officials but wants them to be accountable for how they’re spending taxpayer funds.

“I was told, as I testified in the House Appropriations Committee, that it was too hard for any citizen to understand school construction costs unless they actually attended every meeting and stayed late at night,” she said. “We believe that it is incumbent upon any public official to tell the truth, to provide the data, to look for the best value, and don’t ever hide the numbers.”