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Superintendent reveals his picks for new Burlington High School site

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:17 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 5:24 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s school board passes a motion Tuesday night to investigate the pros and cons of three potential sites for a new high school.

After BHS closed to students in September 2020 because potentially cancer-causing PCBs were identified, the superintendent and school board began the process which led to realizing they need to build a new school.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan has now identified three sites to move forward on: one on the north side of Institute Road near the closed high school, another across the street where the fields are, and the other site is where Memorial Auditorium and Gateway Block is in downtown Burlington.

“Ultimately, we are narrowing it down to sites we think we can get a building built by 2025,” Flanagan said.

The consultant firm recently ranked the 12 potential sites for the new school. The first and second on the list were at the old BHS site on Institute Road. The most preferential being the north side where the school which needs to be demolished currently stands, and the other site the south side where the athletic fields are currently.

“I would say Institute Road because we have our campus here, because we have our school here, because we own the land. It’s a site that has a lot of promise, a lot of potential,” Flanagan said.

Of the sites ranked by the consultants, number eight out of 12 on the list is the downtown block where Memorial Auditorium stands. Flanagan is also suggesting the district look into that site, and Mayor Miro Weinberger also strongly recommended that site to the district, saying in a letter it could cost tens of millions of dollars less when working in partnership with the city to develop the block.

Some parents like the idea of a downtown school next to the city library and across from Edmunds Elementary and Middle School.

“The majority of parents and families are saying and community members, too, are saying that Institute Road makes more sense, but we are probably hearing from 10%-15% of people saying, ‘Hey, we really want you to look at a downtown site and make that someplace we could have a high school.’ So there’s interest both ways,” Flanagan said.

Now the board will be digging deeper into the pros and cons of each site. That’s something citizens are already thinking about when weighing the old Institute Road site versus Memorial Auditorium.

“The existing location seems to be an awfully good space with the parking and the availability of the sports recreational fields, so I kind of think they should stay,” said Ed Deslaurier, who works in Burlington.

“Memorial Auditorium building is just deteriorating and looking pretty bad and that whole corner is kind of an eyesore, and I think the city would benefit by locating the high school there,” said Jack Qualey of Burlington.

“I would be interested to see if that’s enough space, also interested about traffic there in the mornings, things like that; it’s a major corridor,” said Patrick Moore of Burlington.

In order to stay on track with getting a school built by 2025, they are aiming to have this new school on the ballot by Town Meeting Day in March 2022 or by the November elections in 2022.

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