Burlington School Board votes to build a new high school on the old campus

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  • Burlington Superintendent Tom Flanagan at Tuesday’s meeting

The Burlington School Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to build a new high school and technical center on its New North End campus, dashing the prospect of a permanent school downtown.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan recommended the site following a six-month process led by real estate consultants White + Burke. The company first identified 16 possible locations, then narrowed it down to three: two sites on the Institute Road campus in the New North End and the downtown Gateway Block on Main Street.


“We did a serious review of the whole town and every possible site that was there,” Flanagan said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And we weighed the site reviews, community feedback, and our own assessment of the community’s educational needs.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting and in A memo in council, Flanagan explained why he chose what is called Institute Road North. Many of those who provided feedback, including New American members of the school community, preferred the location, he said. The space is large enough to accommodate all of the high school and technology center programs. And it is also accessible by several modes of transport, including bicycle and bus, and has a large outdoor space and playgrounds.
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But Flanagan said that site presented a number of challenges. It was too small to accommodate all of the high school and technology center programs. And there were unfamiliar development challenges that could be costly and time consuming. On the one hand, there is an old brick and cobblestone sewer and storm water pipe that runs under the site that the crews should have moved and rebuilt before the new school was built.


Before commissioners vote Tuesday on Flanagan’s recommendation, Burlington Education Association president Beth Fialko Casey called the decision “momentous” for teachers.


“This is important for us because we feel an urgent need for permanence,” said Fialko Casey, English teacher. “We are more than delighted that our future building, should you choose to select it, will bring us back to the beauty and accessibility of 52 Institute Road. ”

In a discussion ahead of the vote, school commissioner Polly Vanderputten said she felt some “paranoia” about the state’s low threshold for PCB levels, and said she wanted to s ‘ensure that there is no contamination at the Institute Road North site.

Flanagan and director of real estate services Marty Spaulding said tests have shown that there are no high levels of PCBs in the ground where the new high school will be built.

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Spaulding said it would take “a few years” to demolish the old building. The district wants to start construction of the new building before the end of this demolition project.

After the vote, board chair Clare Wool read a statement on behalf of the entire board.

“It is our obligation as a school board to defend our schools and adhere to sound financial management,” the statement said. “We believe that not having a permanent secondary school and technical center puts our city in a state of emergency and should be a top priority when making financial decisions.”

Wool said the school board plans to put a bond for the new high school on the ballot in November 2022.


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