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Burlington school district officials and project planners hold public meeting on status of high school and technical center rebuilding plans

Burlington High School sign
Pat Bradley
Burlington High School sign (file)

Burlington, Vermont voters will be asked to approve a bond in November to build a new high school and technical center. In advance of that, school officials held what they called a “kick-off” forum to hear from the design team and school officials about the plan.

Burlington school officials had planned a major renovation of the district’s high school and technical center and in 2018 voters approved a $70 million bond for that project.

But when planning began for the project, officials had to close the high school and tech center after it was determined there was significant PCB contamination in the existing buildings. Students have been attending classes in a renovated former department store in downtown Burlington. The district is planning to rebuild the school.

Consultants recommended a number of potential sites for the new school and the School Board decided to build on the current campus.

Voters will be asked to pass a new bond in November to pay for the new high school and tech center.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan said they are committed to listening to the priorities of the community and maintaining fiscal stability throughout the process — and there are efforts to reduce costs to the taxpayers.

“We know this is a big lift for our district, for our city. And so we’ve set aside already $11.5 million through the American Rescue Plan funding and some other funding sources that we have access to already. We’re going to continue to do serious fundraising to bring other resources to this project.”

High School Principal Lauren McBride said work continues behind the scenes to craft an innovative design for the school.

“We’re thinking about flexible classrooms. Making sure that as we look at this design that we are thinking about shared functional spaces that have access to high quality technology but also allow us to be flexible in how we utilize and capitalize on instruction and learning spaces for students.”

The project also rebuilds the Burlington Technical Center. Director Jason Gingold says reconnecting the center with the high school will be beneficial to students and the community.

“We’re looking forward to creating spaces that have the ability to grow technologically and meet the demands of our regional labor market. BTC continues to plan and strive to have the most up-to-date technology and equipment and we hope that this new building is designed in a way that as new programs develop in five, ten, fifteen years those spaces can meet those demands of the labor market and your communities.”

DRA Architects President Carl Franceschi explained that the project is currently in the conceptual design phase and a timeline has been created leading to the November bond vote.

“The first phase that we’re working on right now is pre-design and programming where we develop a concept for the building and the tech center that grows out of the visioning and programming phase. And we expect to complete that this spring. Then we’ll on a schematic design this summer where we can develop a sort of robust design that’s detailed enough to develop accurate cost estimates so that when the district votes in November the scope and budget of the project will be well defined.”

The bond amount that voters will vote on has not yet been determined. Franceschi says cost estimates will be determined and the bond amount finalized within a few months.

“The construction costs will really get fine-tuned during the schematic design phase which happens this summer, well in advance of November. So there’ll be plenty of time for people to understand it prior to the November bond vote.”

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