South Burlington considers upgrades to middle, high schools

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) South Burlington is working on a school improvement plan. The project has been in the exploration phase for about a year now. In Phase One last year, groups looked at the structure of the buildings. In Phase Two Wednesday, community members discussed classroom sizes and learning opportunities.

"Every child deserves the best chance to learn," said Abby Crocker, a South Burlington mom.

Crocker is one of the parents who joined architects, teachers and school administrators to discuss the possibility of renovating South Burlington's middle school and high school. She has a third-grader and a seventh-grader, so Crocker knows firsthand there is room for improvement at the more than 60-year-old facilities.

"Overcrowding in the classrooms. And I think we're learning that kids can learn better if they sort of have a nicer environment, sort of stand up and move around rather than sit at a desk in a crowded way and be lectured at," she said.

"The design space to support optimal learning is really being evaluated," said David Young, the superintendent of South Burlington schools.

Young says a lot of Vermont schools are in a similar situation with older buildings that could use some upgrades.

"We're trying to do it in a two-pronged approach looking at both the need and then what are the educational opportunities," he said.

Dore & Whittier Architects estimates capital improvements-- a new roof, handicap accessibility and energy-efficient electrical and plumbing systems-- could cost a combined $31 million.

Crocker hopes if the time comes, her neighbors will be willing to spend the extra money for the children.

"I moved to South Burlington for the schools. And I think schools and strong schools are a lot of what South Burlington's identity is," she said.

It's still very early in the process. School officials have not outlined how much the improvements would cost taxpayers. The district expects to have options and cost estimates for the middle and high school by mid-December.

WCAX News also asked if the elementary schools would be updated. The superintendent said they were upgraded in 1998, so the middle and high schools are the focus.

Young said they are not thinking of combining the three elementary schools right now.

"A lot of that is going to be predicated on what happens in the city," Young said. "What's happening with new housing developments? What's happening with business opportunities? What does that then do to populations-- increases or decreases?"

He says it is tough to predict.