Burlington officials hold groundbreaking for construction of new high school and technical center
Burlington, Vermont city and school officials gathered on Wednesday to mark the official groundbreaking for a new high school and technical center.
In 2020 officials closed the Burlington High School and Technical Center buildings after PCBs were found throughout the campus. Students eventually were moved to a renovated Macy’s department store as an interim school while plans were made to rebuild the school.
In a November 2022 special election, Burlington voters approved 72 to 23 percent a $165 million bond question authorizing the Burlington School District to build a new high school and technical center.
The groundbreaking to begin the abatement and demolition of the current buildings was originally scheduled in February, but was delayed due to a winter storm.
With snowbanks competing with spring mud, school district and city officials took shovels in hand to mark the end of one era and the beginning of new educational experiences.
School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan thanked those who helped design and craft the project and residents who have been waiting for action on a new school.
“I want to thank the citizens of Burlington for getting us here today by overwhelmingly supporting our November bond project for this building. As we move forward from conceptual plans to reality, I am so happy to have the support of all of you to build a school that will support equity, inclusion and deep learning for all. A school that will support all BSD (Burlington School District) learners to be challenged, empowered and engaged. A school that we can be proud of for generations to come. Together we can and will get this done.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, noted he’s been to a lot of groundbreakings and each has felt like a small miracle because they represent hard work, accomplishment and potential for the future.
“Today feels like a large miracle. It is the day we begin to construct a high school that is worthy of the great kids of this city. I know the countless hours, great skill, brute persistence that is required to take an idea and push it forward through the public process. The far too complicated permitting system. The design and financing efforts all before you can put a shovel in the ground. It is easy to understand the incredible effort that made this possible and the awesome potential that is before us.”
Weinberger added that for years the city has been experiencing growth and investment.
“The rebuilding of our high school must be our top priority. This is a building where our youngest Burlingtonians are going to spend a crucial period of their lives and this is a generation that is confronting great challenges. This is the generation that we need to lead us out of the climate emergency, to root out systemic racism, to stop the scourge of gun violence. We need the upcoming generations to protect democracy itself. To prepare them for this work they deserve a 21st century high school that fosters learning, community and equity. From the day the old school was shuttered until now the Burlington school community has demonstrated a tenacious and innovative spirit that will ensure we can deliver all that and more.”
Burlington Education Association President Beth Fialko Casey has taught in the district for over 15 years.
“I know many are grieving for this building that has been our school’s home for so long. We kind-of miss it! We do not miss the long climb up the hill in the mornings or the perpetually broken elevator. We miss all the good stuff. This Burlington High School behind us has nurtured generations and we are here to remember that while this building may be toxic our achievements and our memories are not. Voting to build a new public high school in these trying times is an extraordinary act of hope. So, let’s bring on the wrecking ball. Let’s build a new school.”
Last October the school district announced its plan to sue Monsanto, the manufacturer of the PCBs, to recoup the costs of rebuilding.
In February Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, filed a motion to dismiss the case and a week later Monsanto began its own testing of the building to gather evidence.
A judge has ruled that the school district can proceed with the project as the litigation continues.