Could F-35 impact school's future in South Burlington?

Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 11:35 PM EDT
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With the arrival of F-35s a year away, schools near the Burlington airport are preparing for more noise pollution.

The Chamberlin School in South Burlington is about a half a mile away from the Burlington International Airport's runways. School officials say noise from the current F-16s are already impacting students. With even louder jets on the way, school officials worry the noise could be too much.

The South Burlington School District hired a sound-testing firm to conduct testing at the elementary school this month. Officials say they expect to have a report showing the noise level of the current jets by early May. Those results could determine if the district will continue their fight to soundproof the school or be forced to relocate 250 students currently attending Chamberlin School.

"We could get information back from Chamberlin by the end of the month that tells us not only will it be too loud when the F-35s come, but it's too loud now. And maybe too loud for insulation to make a difference," said Bridget Burkhardt, a South Burlington School Board member.

The uncertainty of the noise testing is also affecting other projects within South Burlington.

At Wednesday's board meeting, city officials hoped to move forward on a new town center. The center would be located off of Market Street and include a new city hall and library.

Because the project included expanding the existing parking lot onto school property, city officials need approval by the school board.

Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard said in order to get the plan on the November ballot, the city needed approval from the school board Wednesday night.

"Is there a willingness to work together to try to make this work? If it can work? I guess," said Hubbard. "That's the answer we need."

But the school board could not give an answer without more information about the plans and uncertainty about the future of the Chamberlin School.

"We would be scrambling to find space at our other properties to try to house those kids and make sure that we are providing an equitable education and that's my priority right now," said Burkhardt.

The city and school board agreed to form a subcommittee to re-evaluate the plans.