Work underway to turn Burlington Macy’s into temporary high school

Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 6:08 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington High School students displaced by PCB contamination at their school will soon be attending in-person classes again at the old Macy’s downtown. Our Bendavid got a look at how the old department store is being transformed.

“We are here to recognize the future of Burlington High School,” said Burlington Schools Superintendent Tom Flanagan. But in this case, the future takes a cue from the past -- an old retail store being turned into a high school. Work crews have started the 10-week, $10 million effort to turn the old Macys into a functioning school. “This is going to be a high school. This is not designed as a temporary space.”

The Macy’s location could be in use for up to three years, depending on how long it takes to clean-up and renovate BHS. The school was shuttered in September after the discovery of elevated levels of PCBs in several buildings on the campus. BHS students have been learning remotely since. The school district says the downtown location is something they are excited about and once construction is done it should be a smooth transition.

“We are providing the same number of classrooms in the building that we have in all of the high school,” said Marty Spaulding, the district’s director of property services.

Flanagan says the goal is to have construction completed in February and students back in March on the hybrid model. “We know we need to be back in person, that’s where the real learning happens,” he said.

There were questions about chemical contamination in the soil at the Macy’s from an old dry cleaning business, but school officials say the state didn’t find any issues with the air quality so the transformation of the space is moving forward.

School officials say the city parking garage next door is equivalent to the parking on the BHS campus. They also say Green Mountain Transit’s downtown bus station is also right next door.

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