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Multiple Sites For New High School Presented To Burlington School Board

Burlington High School sign
Pat Bradley
Burlington High School sign

A key item on the Burlington, Vermont School Board agenda this week was an overview of the first phase of determining a site for a new high school building.

In September 2020 it was determined that Burlington High School buildings were contaminated with PCB’s. Students have been attending classes in a renovated former Macy’s department store in the downtown. The school board decided it would be more prudent to build a new high school and technical center than renovate the existing buildings.

At Tuesday’s School Board meeting commissioners viewed a presentation from Real Estate Advisors White and Burke Senior Project Manager Joe Weith on the first phase of siting choices for a new building. He told the panel the current phase is a broad search based on a set of criteria, and the district must narrow the list to advance to Phase 2. That is when detailed site feasibility analysis and conceptual planning takes place. Phase 3 will determine the final site for permitting, design and construction. Weith outlined the criteria for the initial site search.

“The top three being city-community support, how quickly do we think we can get the site secured, designed permitted and constructed, and then expected site work and building costs. And then a few of the other important criteria included bus transit accessibility, parking, land acquisition costs, permitting risk and environmental risks.”

The consultants looked for spaces that could accommodate a 275,000 to 300,000 square foot building on 8 acres on a suburban land or up to 2.5 acres in an urban center. Sixteen sites are on the initial list. Weith says it’s partially based on suggestions from a number of sources including the public.

“It’s a pretty long list. There’s 16 sites. We wanted to make sure that we cast a broad net and really took a good look at any sites out there that were large enough that we felt could potentially work.”

Areas on the list include the former Vermont Transit headquarters at 345 Pine Street, Centennial Field, the City Place Pit, Leddy Park and properties on Institute Road near or at the closed high school.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan emphasized the board still needs public input on the selection and process.

“Our goal of completing a project as soon as we can is August of 2025. That’s a very aggressive timeline, one that may be hard to meet. We have to really hit our timelines in the interim to get to that timeline.”

The school board will decide at its September 7th meeting which sites will advance to Phase 2.

The School Board also heard a report from Superintendent Flanagan on school opening plans and state Agency of Education guidance. South District Commissioner Jeff Wick asked Flanagan for clarification on the masking policy.

"It’s my understanding about the Agency of Education’s guidelines that we start the year masking in the schools. But then if we can determine in a given school that a certain threshold have been vaccinated then we can lose the masks?” Flanagan responds: “That is correct. So if 80 percent, it’s based on students.”

Wick: “Oh okay.”

Flanagan continues. “If they are vaccinated then there is no longer the recommendation for masks.” Wick followed up. “How do we determine that?”

Flanagan clarified. “What we’ll be doing in the beginning of the year is asking families and students for vaccination status. And I’m anticipating some additional advisory information on that 80 percent rule. There is some debate about that right now.”

Students begin school on September 8th.

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