School board discusses $200M plan for new Burlington High School

Board meets Wednesday night.
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 4:51 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:42 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The new Burlington high school and tech center could cost more than $200 million.

Wednesday night, Burlingtonians got their first look at the plans and the expected budget.

The range for a new building is $161 million-$207 million. That doesn’t include the cost of demolishing the old school at the Institute Road site, which is estimated at up to $29 million.

“It’s a building that has I don’t think stood the test of time,” said Superintendent Tom Flanagan.

In 2020, the old Burlington High School site was abruptly closed when it was found to have dangerous levels of cancer-causing PCBs in the air and building material. Flanagan says the school was due for an update even before this.

“It’s not a great building. It’s a series of different buildings connected by pathways, so the accessibility issues are pretty significant and just the flow of the building is not great,” said Flanagan.

Students have been learning at the former Macy’s building downtown since then.

While the amounts of PCBs considered “safe” has changed a few times, school board members say moving forward with a new school is necessary.

“We needed a new high school before the PCBs happened,” Burlington School Board Commissioner Kendra Sowers said in December. “It just seems to make sense to push for this new high school immediately.”

They plan for the new building to be 273,000-315,000 square feet, large enough for just over 1,100 students.

The school board did look at the cost of removing PCBs from the existing school buildings but says the cost isn’t justifiable.

Architects are now working with school officials on the new plans.

“We’re looking at all the costs that go into this building, hard construction costs, and what we call soft costs like furniture and equipment,” said Jesse Beck, with Freeman French Freeman.

A conceptual design of the project should be done in about two weeks. The school board is expected to review them at their April 5 meeting.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to engage in these conversations, and we do have some time over the next few weeks to engage in this discussion as a community,” said Flanagan.

Flanagan says hopefully the new school will open by 2025.

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