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Burlington School Board hears initial cost estimates for new high school and technical center

 Burlington High School sign
Pat Bradley
Burlington High School sign

The Burlington, Vermont School Board heard project cost estimates to build a new high school and technical center at its latest meeting.

Burlington school officials had planned to renovate the district’s high school and technical center and in 2018 voters approved a $70 million bond for that project. But as the project began significant PCB contamination was found and the buildings were permanently closed.

The district is now planning to rebuild the school.

A trio of architectural firms are crafting conceptual designs for a new high school and technical center.

Freeman French Freeman President Jesse Beck told the school board that cost estimates range between roughly $161 million and $207 million.

“We’re looking at all the costs that go into this new building, the hard construction costs and what we call soft costs like furniture and equipment, fees, permit fees. There’s a whole long list of soft costs that we’ve identified that go into these project numbers. The project site has its own costs for the demolition, the remediation and the prepping of this property to accept the new school.”

Beck told the school board they will soon be presented with options and once a final design is chosen costs can be further delineated.

“Picking one option out of three or four, that’s the hard part, one option that we refine in a lot more detail so that when we do arrive at a final cost of the project we can then set that strategy for the bond vote which will happen in November.”

The school design is based on an enrollment of 1,150 students. But with current enrollment under 900, Ward 7 School Board member Monika Ivancic asked Superintendent Tom Flanagan why the district is planning a larger building.

“What’s the logic behind budgeting for 1,150 students? I know our enrollment has been consistently at a thousand and has recently been dropping.”

Superintendent Flanagan explains, “We’ve had lower than 1150 for the past number of years, but if this is a building for over 50 years what should we be building. We based it on historical data trends with some level of projection and erring toward not underbuilding.”

North District School Board member Kendra Sowers asked architect Beck if the existing buildings are included in the plan.

“In those figures was there any reuse of existing buildings or is this completely cost estimates for a brand new high school?”

Beck notes, “Our charge from the beginning was this was to be a new school.”

Sowers clarifies, “So brand new. So no, nothing attached to the old building?”

Beck nods, “Correct. Now we may be using the wood chip facility which is the last building up on the hill as a fuel source and that’s going to be part of our studying with our mechanical electrical engineer.”

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