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BHS students start classes at former Macy’s

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 8:21 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 8:22 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some Burlington High School students Thursday morning were inside new classrooms at the former Macy’s department store. For many, it’s the first time in months they’ve been back in school after the BHS campus closed down in the fall over PCB contamination concerns.

“We are opening our doors and welcoming our students to what is now our new home of Downtown BHS,” said Lauren McBride, the school’s interim principal.

With some staff meetings and fire drills, the goal is a smooth welcome home for Burlington High School students.

“The buzz around here is infectious,” said McBride.

She says teachers took the term “seize the day” to a new level.

“Brought in some art and books and bookshelves, and so it is really becoming this vibrant learning environment,” McBride said.

But the do-over first day isn’t so much about learning, but about getting used to the space.

“Having a mixture of content, but also time to orient ourselves to this space knowing this is a new space for everyone,” said McBride.

Students will be able to get used to the sights and sounds of the new BHS. Orientation is up first, led by seniors who have taken on leadership roles, meeting with homeroom teachers and even covering some of the old retail space.

“To get back to some level of community, of community togetherness and connectedness,” said Superintendent Tom Flanagan.

He says getting to this space involved support from the school board to the governor. The building has swapped shopping bags for books, and now that first day of school excitement can settle in.

“I’m expecting excitement, just people being back in the space, seeing the space for the first time,” Flanagan said.

And Principal McBride says however day one goes, they are ready.

“We will start slow and we will do it together, but we are so so excited to have them at our new home,” she said.

Students started arrived Thursday a little after 8 a.m. It will only be half of the students as they are still under a hybrid model. The other half will get to do it all over again on Friday. School is starting as some renovation work continues on the old department store.

Even though the new location is downtown, Flanagan is confident drop-offs will be smooth.

“I think because we only have half of our students in the school at any given time and the start is pretty early. I don’t think we will have too much of an impact on traffic,” he said.

Flanagan says it is around the 8 a.m. time period that students will be headed into the building, so just like any school zone, drivers should watch out for students. He says if Cherry Street is avoidable, that may be the safest bet.

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