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Burlington School District gives timeline on Macy’s move

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 12:10 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2020 at 5:02 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington School District Tuesday night provided a clearer timeline of when Burlington High School students may move into the former Macy’s building.

Officials said construction is set to begin on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and will end around Feb. 22. Students will start at the new campus in early March.

“I think we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel here,” Superintendent Tom Flanagan said.

The Burlington High School building was vacated at the beginning of the school year after PCBs were found to be contaminating the air in parts of the building.

Before students can move into the former Macy’s, the school district needs the air quality test results, which are expected to come back from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Friday. The DEC tested the soil at the site for chemicals from a former dry cleaning business, but the agency doesn’t believe the toxins made their way into the air inside the building.

“Because there is a vapor barrier in between the soil and the foundation,” Flanagan said. “We are feeling very confident and very optimistic.”

If the district gets the all-clear, the 150,000-square-foot building will house Burlington High School students for the next 3.5 years at the cost of $1.9 million per year. That’s a total of about $6.6 million.

This comes as Vermont’s Tax Commissioner projects a statewide average tax increase of 9% for school spending growth. State officials say the state education fund revenues are down and statewide needs are up. If no changes are made, Burlington could see a 13% tax increase.

Flanagan says the school district is committed to lowering that number.

“We’re going to definitely work to make sure that that’s not the tax impact,” said Flanagan.

Some options they’re considering are using surplus funds from the fiscal year 2021 budget and getting help from Gov. Phil Scott for the Burlington High School remodeling project.

They plan to spend the next few weeks going over budget development with the goal of having a decision in January.

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